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Walk in the footsteps of the Apollo astronauts: A field guide to northern Arizona astronaut training sites

September 4, 2019

Every astronaut who walked on the Moon trained in Flagstaff, AZ. In the early 1960s, scientists at the newly formed United States Geological Survey (USGS) Branch of Astrogeology led this training, teaching geologic principals and field techniques to the astronaut crews. USGS scientists and engineers also developed and tested scientific instrument prototypes, and communication and transportation technologies that would aid in lunar exploration. Astronomers and cartographers based at the USGS and Lowell Observatory, using telescopes at Lowell Observatory and the U.S. Naval Observatory, also played a key role, preparing lunar navigation charts and landing site maps.

This historical / educational field trip will take participants along a historical path to some of the key sites where the Apollo astronauts trained. Field trip participants will see: (1) Grover, the geologic rover simulator on which the Apollo astronauts trained, which is on display at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center; (2) Telescopes at Lowell Observatory used to map the lunar surface, as well as some of the original airbrushed maps; (3) the Bonito Lava Flow training area at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument; (4) the Cinder Lake crater field, which was created in 1967 to simulate the lunar landscape for training astronauts and testing equipment; and (5) Meteor Crater, the best-preserved exposed impact crater on Earth.

During this field trip, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most remarkable events and most significant achievements in the history of humankind, we hope that the sites we visit will connect participants with the experiences of the astronauts, and the excitement and inspiration of the origins of human space exploration. We also hope to communicate the historical significance of these sites, facilitate continued visitation of the sites (e.g. through class field trips), and educate the broader scientific and science education communities about the role that Flagstaff scientists and engineers played in the Apollo expeditions to the Moon.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Walk in the footsteps of the Apollo astronauts: A field guide to northern Arizona astronaut training sites
DOI 10.1130/2019.0055(12)
Authors R. Greg Vaughan, Kevin Schindler, Jeanne Stevens, Ian Hough
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70206910
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center