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  Apollo astronauts' geology field exercises

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Author Topic:   Apollo astronauts' geology field exercises
David C
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From: Pasadena, CA
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posted 09-01-2016 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone have detailed information about the Apollo astronaut geology field exercises?

I'm looking for the precise locations visited, starting with, but in no way restricted to: the Orocopia Mountains, Mono Craters, the Rio Grande Canyon and Iceland. The information that I have states dates and attendees but is very sketchy on locations.

For example the Orocopias entry refers you to Andrew Chaikin and he gives negligible information. As for listing "Iceland" as a location, well that's pretty much useless as well if you're trying to visit these places.

Blackarrow
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posted 09-01-2016 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you haven't already done so, I recommend reading "To a Rocky Moon" by Don Wilhelms. If there's a better account of the geological side of Project Apollo, I'm not aware of it.

One Big Monkey
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From: West Yorkshire, UK
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posted 09-01-2016 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for One Big Monkey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The report given here is also very interesting:
The U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology — A Chronology of Activities from Conception through the End of Project Apollo (1960-1973)

NukeGuy
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From: Irvine, CA USA
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posted 09-01-2016 01:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You may find this reference interesting:
Science Training History of the Apollo Astronauts

MCroft04
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From: Smithfield, Me, USA
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posted 09-01-2016 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NukeGuy:
You may find this reference interesting
Thanks for this reference; a new one for me. I have some great reading to do.

On a side note, those attending the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation STS-1 and 2 35th anniversary and Johnson Space Center tour, are going to get a good geology fix.

Guests will tour the entire curation facility and will see the Lunar Processing Lab, the Meteorite Processing Lab and the Stardust Comet Sample Return Lab among other destinations. We will also get to talk to some of the scientists and curators, including Jack Warren, who opened the first box of moon rocks from Apollo 11. Plus much more!

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 09-02-2016 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some useful links in this cS thread and here.

In 1960, Dr. Eugene Shoemaker founded the US Geological Survey (USGS) Branch of Astrogeology & Surface Planetary Exploration in Menlo Park, California, and moved its HQ to Flagstaff, Arizona in 1962. In January 1963, he guided and briefed NASA's Group 2 astronauts (New Nine) on a geologic field trip to Meteor Crater, which was the very first field training for the new group destined for the Apollo missions.

Shoemaker was subsequently instrumental in convincing NASA to allow the astronauts to do some actual science while on the lunar surface. Formal classroom geologic training of the astronauts began at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in 1964 under Dale Jackson, Don Wilhelms and Gordon Swann and the first field test using actual spacesuits took place in June 1964 at Sunset Crater and Bonita Lava Flow, Arizona.

More information on the January 1963 geologic field trip to Meteor Crater can be found in this cS thread.

David C
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From: Pasadena, CA
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posted 09-02-2016 04:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks guys. I have all the references linked through the ALSJ already, and they're pretty imprecise on locations. I'm going to have to get hold of "To a Rocky Moon" and see what that says.

Keep those suggestions coming in folks.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-21-2017 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astronaut Geology Training:
  • Moon Trip by Bert King, dedicates Chapter II (pages 27-57) to a unique insight into some of the locations involved.

  • Iceland

    The Exploration Museum in Húsavík, Iceland should be able to provide more detail about Apollo training at Drekagil, Grjótagjá, Lake Mývatn, Nautagil and Askja Caldera.

    Further background can be found here.

    Many photos can be found here and here.

    NASA astronauts on newly formed lavafield near Askja. The NASA Camp at Askja, Iceland. NASA Apollo astronauts at Grjótagjá at Lake Mývatn, Iceland.

    Note that Lake Mývatn is a beautiful blue body of water that in the summer attracts thousands of holiday-makers and even more black flies (mývatn means "midge"). "Two thousand tons of black flies, to be precise," informed a guide. "They are annoying but harmless, and food for the many fish and birds."

  • Taos, New Mexico

    Geological training of astronauts in the Taos region - a 2004 article by W. R. Muehlberger - provides a good description of a field trip route that takes in Apollo-era training sites e.g.

    We cross the Rio Grande on the old Taos Junction road (where it climbs out of the Gorge is the one-to-one scale model of the Apollo 15 Hadley Rille)...

David C
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From: Pasadena, CA
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posted 02-21-2017 03:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow Yankee Clipper, you've been busy. Thanks for that lot, interesting and helpful. I was over in Taos last summer and the gorge is well worth a visit. I've been to Iceland before, but not with this in mind. Looks like I'm due another trip.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
Registered: Mar 2011

posted 02-21-2017 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You're welcome. This site gives a good introduction to the geology of the Lake Mývatn area.

Grjótagjá lava cave at Lake Mývatn looks well worth the visit, and I can see why geology trainers would be interested in it. In the region, Mývatnsflugvöllur - Mývatn Airport (IATA: MVA, ICAO: BIRL) is an airport serving Reykjahlíð, Iceland.

Reminder: If looking for the Apollo 17 moon rock and flown Icelandic flag that the presentation piece has been recalled from the Exploration Museum back to the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (IINH) for security reasons.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-21-2017 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Page 9 of this article on Caltech's Dr. Lee Silver has a map depicting an Apollo 15 training traverse along the west side of the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, New Mexico.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 04-17-2017 10:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to the National Park Service, on August 22, 1969, Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Joe Engle, and Eugene Cernan landed at the airport in Arco, Idaho. They then proceeded to Craters of the Moon where they explored the lava landscape and learned the basics of volcanic geology in preparation for future trips to the moon.

This article has three images of the Apollo 14 astronauts during geological training at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho.

Two of the images are of Apollo 14 BULMP Joe Engle, including a great photo with Apollo 17 CDR Gene Cernan sitting inside Buffalo Cave at Craters of the Moon in 1969. Buffalo Cave is located along Broken Top Loop and is part of the vast tube system known as the Broken Top Flow. The trail loop is an easy 2 miles and provides an opportunity to view nearly every type of volcanic feature in the park.  The cave itself has low ceilings so take care or it will give you a bump on the head - what the rangers call a "cave kiss."

This article gives more detail about the caves at Craters of the Moon.

In 1999, the astronauts returned to Craters of the Moon as documented in this short NPS video Return To The Moon.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 04-17-2017 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The ALSJ gives detail of the Apollo 14 geology field trip to Nördlingen Ries Crater, Otting Quarry and Harburg Quarry, Germany by Al Shepard, Ed Mitchell, Gene Cernan, and Joe Engle on 10-15 August 1970.

According to Dr. Fred Hörz of NASA:

We had a difficult time handling the German press; the latter was more disrespectful of our needs and goals than any press I encountered during all of crew training. It was a real circus atmosphere wherever we went and whatever we did. Reports about beer and wine drinking, disgruntled authorities and quarry owners hit the national press. Also, following the field trip, the crew was 'hosted' by Daimler-Benz for a weekend. Reports about test-driving race cars and going elk-hunting etc also forced Deke Slayton to decide that it 'looks like too much fun and not enough work; no more Ries for Apollo 15, 16, and 17.' Too bad! We could never convince him otherwise!

Wehaveliftoff
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posted 04-18-2017 07:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Wehaveliftoff   Click Here to Email Wehaveliftoff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is another reason I wish Harrison Schmitt would write a book about the geological journey from this to his lunar excursion and even explain the lunar rock samples returned. Just like many college textbooks, would be higher than normal price but with intensive analystic desciptions.

David C
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From: Pasadena, CA
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posted 04-19-2017 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Plenty of interesting stuff, here. I guess Schmitt figures that his input into the official reports covered it, but yeah, a book would have been nice. Reports are great for professional geologists, but a book would have allowed a more general perspective.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 05-06-2017 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another photo of Apollo 14 astronauts on the geology field trip, at Craters of the Moon, Idaho on August 22, 1969.

Jurg Bolli
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posted 05-06-2017 10:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is that Engle on the left in the green shirt? And who is behind Mitchell?

ColinBurgess
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posted 05-06-2017 11:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, Engle in the green shirt, and that could be Gene Cernan behind Ed Mitchell.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 05-27-2017 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excerpt from Iceland's Lunar Landscapes - a June 2013 Wall Street International article by Katharina Hauptmann :
NASA scientists picked all kinds of places on Earth that they thought might resemble the lunar landscape. One of these remote places was Iceland. So two teams of astronauts and geologists came to Iceland for astro-geological field trips, so called GFTs. The aim of those GFTs was for the aspiring spacemen to make themselves familiar with geological formations and other conditions that were thought to be found on the moon. Back then the only known informations about the lunar surface were the result of images transmitted by space probes orbiting the moon, everything else was merely speculation. These probe images led to the assumption that the moon's surface was most likely covered with basaltic rocks, especially so-called palagonite tuff.

Iceland is one of the youngest volcanic islands on this planet and therefore comparatively unaffected. It's the only region in the world where one can still find vast and barren areas of palagonite tuff which is the reason why NASA chose the island for their astronauts' training. According to NASA's official appendix, a team consisting of the astronauts Anders, Bassett, Bean, Cernan, Chaffee, Cunningham, Eisele, Schweikart, Scott and Williams visited Iceland from July 12th-16th 1965. In July 1967, a second team including astronauts Anders, Armstrong, Brand, Carr, Duke, Engle, Evans, Garriot, Gibson, Haise, Kerwin, Lind, Lousma, Mattingly, McCandless, Michel, Mitchell, Pogue, Roosa, Schmitt, Swigert, Weitz and Worden came to the island of fire and ice.

They found “Beautiful volcanic geology with practically no vegetation cover. Features includes calderas, ash cones, steaming volcanic vents, cinders, pumice, various types of lava flows. Probably the most moon-like of the field areas.”They were supervised by two Icelandic geologists, Dr. Sigurður Þórarinsson and Dr. Guðmundur Sigvaldason. The geological observations made by the astronauts around the edge of the Askja Caldera, a site of multiple volcanic eruptions, even lead to a revision in the interpretation by Icelandic geologists of the origin of some of the units erupted from the caldera. They also trained in vast scree fields on Reykjanes peninsula near Krýsuvík in the southwest of the island.

The astronauts were doing the so-called “moon game”, an exercise where they had to simulate being on the moon and collect representative samples of the area, identify rock formations, complete basic survival training and practice communication techniques. Amongst the 12 men that have set foot on the moon, nine trained in Iceland, including Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.

Note: Krýsuvík is a large geothermal area with hot springs and mud steam vents.

YankeeClipper
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posted 05-29-2017 03:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Details of Gus Grissom's Geological Hammer and Field Kit as used in March 1964 during geological training at the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

The hammer appears to be an Estwing Rock Pick/Hammer. The leather hammer holster and field case were manufactured by Roy Gfeller.

Appendix C of NASA SP-2015-626 Science Training History of the Apollo Astronauts contains details of field equipment and books used for geology training of astronauts in 1964.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 06-24-2017 09:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had an opportunity at Spacefest to ask Joe Engle about what really happened on the Apollo 14 geology trip to Germany in August 1970.

Joe said that he was invited by Daimler to sit behind the wheel of the then new and experimental Mercedes-Benz C 111 super car, presumably for a photo-op. Sitting beside him was a Daimler test driver. Joe didn't speak any German and the Daimler guy didn't speak any English. So when Joe more or less inquired, in the international language of mechanical propulsion, if he could take it on the track for a spin the Daimler guy said OK!

Now everyone on this forum knows exactly what happens when you hand control of a fast vehicle to a test pilot — especially one whose definition of 'slow' in the X-15 was Mach 4. So true to form, Joe did what Joe does best and after only a short while the Daimler guy developed a look on his face that said: "We really shouldn't be doing this. No, really!" Joe just laughed and continued to push the 'research' envelope.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 01-23-2018 09:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A 2014 Air & Space Magazine tribute to Gordon Swann - Geology Teacher to the Astronauts.

This entire site has some interesting information on astronaut geological field training around Taos, New Mexico.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 01-25-2018 03:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo 11 Geology Field Exercise in west Texas near Sierra Blanca and the ruins of Fort Quitman, about 130 kilometers southeast of El Paso, 24 February 1969. Bill Muehlberger wrote:
The Sierra Blanca trip was the only trip specifically on geology for the Apollo 11 crew. They went into the large arroyos to learn how to sample when a variety of rocks are spread out.
  • S69-25944 Apollo 11 LMP Buzz Aldrin (left) and CDR Neil Armstrong examine rock samples in west Texas near Sierra Blanca. Armstrong is shown clearly holding an Estwing Rock Hammer.

  • S69-25891 Apollo 11 CDR Neil Armstrong and LMP Buzz Aldrin on the Sierra Blanca geology trip with Mike McEwen, a member of the Manned Spacecraft Center's Geology Branch who participated in astronaut geology training. The prime crew hold Estwing Rock Hammers.

  • S69-25197 Apollo 11 CDR Neil Armstrong examining a rock sample during the Sierra Blanca trip.

  • S69-25199 Apollo 11 BUCDR Jim Lovell (left) looking on and holding a Hasselblad, while BULMP Fred Haise (right) examines a sample during the Sierra Blanca trip. Lovell has an Estwing geology hammer stowed in his tool belt.

  • S69-25202 Apollo 11 LMP Buzz Aldrin (left) takes a handheld documentation photo while CDR Neil Armstrong appears to be using the tongs to collect a sample during the Sierra Blanca trip.

  • S69-25901 From the left, Neil Armstrong (blue shirt), Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, Bill Pogue (blue flight suit), and Jack Swigert collect samples on the Sierra Blanca geology field trip.

Apollo 14 Geology Field Exercise Craters of the Moon, Idaho. 22-23 August 1969.

  • S69-43516 Apollo 14 BULMP Joe Engle (left) and BUCDR Gene Cernan on a geology field trip at Craters of the Moon.

  • S69-43552 Apollo 14 CDR Al Shepard (light blue shirt) and LMP Ed Mitchell (cap) on a geology field trip at Craters of the Moon.

  • S69-43599 Apollo 14 BULMP Joe Engle (right) and BUCDR Gene Cernan on a geology field trip at Craters of the Moon.

  • S69-43750 Apollo 14 BULMP Joe Engle (right) and BUCDR Gene Cernan on a geology field trip at Craters of the Moon.

Apollo 14 Geology Field Exercise Kapoho, Hawaii. 2-4 April 1970.

  • S70-34421 Apollo 14 CDR Alan B. Shepard Jr. (leaning with left hand on ground) and LMP Edgar D. Mitchell (behind Shepard, wearing dark glasses) look over an area near the site of a volcanic eruption. Others in the photograph are Pat Crosland (in hard hat), a geologist and a park ranger in Hawaii Volcanoes State Park; Michael C. McEwen (facing Mitchell) of the Geology Branch, Lunar and Earth Sciences Division, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC); and astronaut Bruce McCandless II, who made the trip to serve as a spacecraft communicator during simulations of extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 Geology Field Exercise Rio Grande Gorge at Taos, New Mexico, 11-12 March 1971.

  • S71-23773 Apollo 15 LMP Jim Irwin (right) and CDR Dave Scott examine the interior of the Rio Grande Gorge from the west rim.

  • S71-23774 Apollo 15 CDR Dave Scott (right) and LMP Jim Irwin drive the 1g Geology Rover (Grover) on the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Apollo 16 Geology Field Exercise Rio Grande Gorge at Taos, New Mexico, 9-10 September 1971.

  • S71-51614 Apollo 16 CDR John Young takes a picture toward the south at the Rio Grande Gorge.

  • 71-H-1547 Apollo 16 CDR John Young (left) looks for another 500mm target while LMP Charlie Duke studies the map at the Rio Grande Gorge at Taos, New Mexico. They are standing on the west rim. Young is taking pictures of the east wall with a Hasselblad equipped with a 500mm lens.

  • S71-54564 Caltech geologist Lee Silver (green shirt with blue stripes) points off to the right during geology training at the Rio Grande Gorge. Apollo 16 BUCDR Fred Haise is beyond Silver, pointing in the same direction, and LMP Charlie Duke is immediately to the left of them. BULMP Ed Mitchell (cream-colored shirt) and CDR John Young are to the right of this group.

Apollo 17 Geology Field Exercise south-central Nevada, 06 September 1972.

  • S72-48854 Apollo 17 LMP Jack Schmitt (left) and CDR Gene Cernan collect samples on the rim of Lunar Crater, a volcanic feature in south-central Nevada. The maar is about 1 kilometer in diameter and 130 meters deep.

  • S72-48859 Apollo 17 LMP Jack Schmitt (left) and CDR Gene Cernan examine a sample in the Pancake Range of south-central Nevada.

  • S72-48864 Apollo 17 LMP Jack Schmitt (left) and CDR Gene Cernan drive the 1g Geologic Rover (Grover) during a field trip on the Pancake Range of south-central Nevada.

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