Saturday, January 23, 2021
Home Lead Story Before Moon Landing, Apollo Astronauts Learned Geology in Arizona

Before Moon Landing, Apollo Astronauts Learned Geology in Arizona

Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff, which is among many cities celebrating the 50th anniversary

Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they would be the first to walk on the moon, they took crash courses in geology at the Grand Canyon and a nearby impact crater that is the most well-preserved on Earth.

Northern Arizona has had deep ties to the Apollo missions: Every moon-walking astronaut trained here, and a crater on the moon was even named in honor of the city of Flagstaff.

“It’s a really interesting and unique part of our history, and it’s really cool to think that this relatively small town in northern Arizona played such a big role in the Apollo missions,” said Benjamin Carver, a public lands historian at Northern Arizona University.

Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff, which is among many cities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Moon, Apollo, Astronauts
Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they would be the first to walk on the moon. Pixabay

They walk in the same volcanic cinder fields where the U.S. Geological Survey intentionally blasted hundreds of craters from the ground to replicate the lunar surface, testing rovers and geology tools.

Scientists used early photos of the moon taken from orbit and re-created the Sea of Tranquility with “remarkable accuracy” before Apollo 11 landed there in 1969, the Geological Survey said.

Astronauts studied moon mapping at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff where Pluto was discovered and peered at their eventual destination through telescopes at various northern Arizona sites.

The region’s role in moon missions is credited to former Geological Survey scientist Gene Shoemaker, who moved the agency’s astrogeology branch to Flagstaff in 1963. It wasn’t long before Shoemaker guided Armstrong and Aldrin on hikes at Meteor Crater as he pushed to ensure NASA would include geology in lunar exploration.

Also Read- As Venezuela’s Healthcare Collapses, Women and Girls Dying Needlessly

A story passed down by geologists at the crater says Aldrin ripped his spacesuit on jagged limestone rocks that are part of the aptly named “tear-pants formation,” forcing a redesign, head tour guide Jeff Beal said.

Armstrong and Aldrin also hiked the Grand Canyon. A historical photo shows Armstrong carrying a rock hammer, a hand lens and a backpack for rock samples.

Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the only Apollo astronaut who didn’t train at the national park. The geologist left Flagstaff to become an astronaut, and while his comrades were learning geology, he was learning to be a pilot.

In another historical photo, Apollo astronauts Jim Irwin and David Scott ride around in Grover, a prototype of the lunar rover made in Flagstaff from spare parts and now on display at the Astrogeology Science Center.

Moon, Apollo, Astronauts
Northern Arizona has had deep ties to the Apollo missions: Every moon-walking astronaut trained here. Pixabay

The eventual lunar rover used in three Apollo missions famously got a broken fender on a 1972 mission to the moon. Astronauts cobbled together a quick fix that included a map produced by geologists in Flagstaff.

In yet another historical photo, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean stand in the volcanic cinder field bordered by ponderosa pine trees holding a tool carrier. Bean would later say: “I now love geology, thanks to these early experiences in Flagstaff,” local historian Kevin Schindler co-wrote in a book on space training in northern Arizona.

Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the Astrogeology Science Center, is working with the 2017 class of astronaut candidates who will be in Flagstaff later this year for field training.

“It will be pretty inspiring for them. It’s inspiring for us being involved in this, but knowing you’re walking in the boot steps of these previous astronauts here in Flagstaff and, hopefully, some day on another body,” she said.

Also Read- Apple Downgraded to ‘Sell’ Over Slow iPhone Sales, Shares Down

Flagstaff is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with tours, exhibits, talks and moon-themed food and art.

Charlie Duke, the youngest astronaut on the moon, is returning to Flagstaff in September as the keynote speaker at an annual science festival. He and Jason Young, who were on Apollo 17, named a moon crater “Flag Crater.”

Retired Flagstaff geologist Gerald Schaber plans to celebrate the lunar legacy wearing the same turquoise bolo tie that distinguished Shoemaker’s Arizona crew from others who worked on moon missions. Schaber was at Mission Control in Houston in 1969, monitoring black-and-white images while bent over a map trying to gauge the distance between Armstrong and Aldrin using cutouts of the men.

“I was just trying to do the best I could with the primitive tracking ability we had in those days,” he said from his home in Flagstaff where he has a signed photograph of a hill on the moon that Apollo 15 astronauts referred to “Schaber Hill.”

Of the three crater fields created in northern Arizona for astronaut training in the late 1960s, only one has a sign acknowledging its importance in the moon missions. Visitors can walk through gaps in a barbed-wire fence and feel their feet sink into the volcanic cinders, although not as deep as the astronauts’ feet on the moon.

The craters don’t come into view without being close up, some as darkened, shallow depressions and others as giant welts in the ground partially lost to the weather.

Arizona has approved a nomination to list several of the training sites on the National Register of Historic Places to better preserve them, but federal approval is still needed. (VOA)

STAY CONNECTED

19,120FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,773FollowersFollow

Most Popular

Comment: With The Arrival of Baiden The United States Starts a New Chapter Filled With Hope

BY FRANK F. ISLAM With the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, America is closing one of the darkest...

This Collaborative Effort For Banana Plantation Can Make The Banana Farmers of India Go Bananas!

A three-way industry-institute-Tamil Nadu government organisation-collaborative effort to increase the value-added products from the banana plantation is expected to make the banana farmers in...

Dyson Launched An AI-Driven ‘V11 Absolute Pro’ Cord-Free Vacuum Cleaner

Keeping in mind Indian households that have various types of hidden dust which includes cockroach allergens, dust mites allergens, dog allergens, mold, bacteria, and...

Twitter To Remove Blue Verification Badges From Inactive And Incomplete Accounts

Micro-blogging platform Twitter has started removing blue verification badges from inactive and incomplete accounts and will begin the new verification process for its users...

How You Feel, Look Are The Two Key Instigators To Going About Your Everyday Life: Hrithik Roshan

How you look, and feel are two key instigators to going about your daily life, says Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan. The actor has featured in...

Ayushmann Khurana Reveals Important Factors Of A Big Film

Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana has been tagged as a risk-taker who picks high-concept films that become hits at the box office, as well as...

Study: Relationship Insecurities Likely To Trigger Depression In Men

Men, take note. If you are a new father and insecure about the relationship with your partner, it may trigger depression, a new study...

CAQM In Delhi To Set Artificial Intelligence For Air Quality Improvement

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in Delhi-NCR and adjoining areas has roped in India's top technical institutions to set up a decision...

Recent Comments