Apollo Astronaut Training

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Description

As the United States prepared to put the first man on the moon, NASA astronauts were learning what they might find on the lunar surface by visiting canyons and craters throughout Arizona.

Transcript

Neil Armstrong:
That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Man:
Aeronautics and space report.

Man:
These men are not prospectors. Their occupation:
space pilots. They are some of the 28 astronauts in an important space training program.

Narrator:
Beginning about 1964, the U.S.G.S. took Astronauts on geologic field trips to places like the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater southeast of Flagstaff . When astronauts were not available, geologists dressed up in spacesuits and simulated the work that would be done on the moon. Learning to relay geologic observations by radio was important because during actual moon landings, U.S.G.S. scientists were at mission control, keeping track of where astronauts were on the lunar surface.

Eugene Shoemaker:
The goal on Apollo 11 was really to demonstrate that you could successfully land on the moon and return the men safely to Earth. That was -- overall, that was -- that was the principle objective, and so the time that was available for science was very limited on that mission.

Neil Armstrong:
Magnificent sight out here.

Astronaut:
Magnificent desolation. Hey, Neil, didn't I say we might see some purple rocks?

Neil Armstrong:
Find a purple rock?

Astronaut:
Yep, very small, sparkly fragments.

Eugene Shoemaker:
Neil Armstrong had only about, really about 10 minutes in which to do any kind of observations on the moon, and he saw a great deal in those 10 minutes. He was very good. But we didn't have – really have a chance to do the kind of careful planning and practice of a full-up geological traverse until the later lunar missions, and we did then work with all of the astronauts that -- all the crews that went to the moon in the subsequent missions.

Narrator:
Early in the geologic training of Apollo astronauts, the need for a more moon-like experience was apparent, so models of lunar rovers used in later Apollo missions were built and work began to bring a piece of the moon to northern Arizona. Using a lunar map of a proposed Apollo 11 landing site, the U.S.G.S. duplicated a patch of the lunar surface in a large field of volcanic cinders just east of Flagstaff . Explosives were buried at different depths to make an assortment of crater sizes.

Man:
Five, four, three, two, one, fire!

Narrator:
When the smoke cleared, the results were amazing. From high above, it's difficult to tell if you're looking at land near Flagstaff or the moon itself. Decades later, you can still walk where astronauts left their footprints. Time has changed it, but the crater field remains.

Gerald Schaber:
Yes, it certainly has changed. I'm surprised it's still here, actually. It's -- the dune buggies have played a lot of -- had a lot of fun on it, it looks like, so they've degraded it quite a bit. And there's an artifact in the bottom there. I guess that's part of history, but thank God we didn't have a rover end up like this car. The astronauts really liked it. They liked driving the rover around and looking at these craters; they thought it was very lunar-like. And after they returned from the moon, they reiterated that, that the training in Cinder Lake was a very good -- good training simulation for the lunar expeditions.