FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO THE MOON
The Astrogeology Center of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff played a vital role in the geologic exploration of the Moon during the Apollo missions. This came about because of two main factors: first, the realization that the Soviet Union was vastly ahead of the U.S. in space technology, which was very dangerous during the cold war. This gave rise to the Apollo program. And second, because of the persuasive insight of Gene Shoemaker, who saw that it would be folly to set foot on another planet for the first time in human history without learning something about its geology.
The U.S.G.S. Center played two major roles in conjunction with this exploration: The first role was to do various kinds of geologic studies of the Moon, as well as making geologic maps of its surface; this determined what should be studied once on the Moon. Second role was making it possible to do those studies using astronauts as field geologists and doing it for the first time ever in the extreme environment of space; this was the “How to do it”.
Working out how to do field geology on the Moon involved these tasks:
· Developing tools to be used by space-suited astronauts
· Developing a way of increasing their mobility on the Moon
· Working out protocols for lucid and effective communication between the astronauts on the Moon and the Science Back Room in Houston
· Working out protocols for systematic and effective geologic work on the Moon
· Training the astronauts in Geology and geologic techniques
· Creating crater fields that were exact duplicates of landing sites on the Moon for the purpose of training the astronauts on those specific sites
Achieving these goals required a very large number of tests, most in the field. These tests were carried out during the entire Apollo program.