Teaching the astronauts to be geologists

Silver knew these astronauts had acute observation skills, but he wanted to direct their attention toward enhancing the scientific return of their missions by honing their ability not only to identify the types of rocks they might find, but also to determine how they might have been formed. Silver wanted to train them to be able to verbalize what they saw for the sake of the scientific teams back on Earth. He also recognized that the astronauts already had full plates, as far as training was concerned, so he had to convince them of the value of this concentrated form of training, if they would willingly fit it into their training schedule. James Lovell and Fred Haise, scheduled for the Apollo 13 lunar landing, agreed to undergo several days of Silver's training, accompanied by their backup crew of John Young and Charlie Duke. In September 1969, Silver and one of his post-doctoral students took the two Apollo crews to a remote desert area some 37 km southeast of Palm Springs, California, near the Orocopia Mountains. Harrison Schmitt joined the group as well. Silver had a marvelous ability to get the astronauts to imagine themselves at a lunar

Jim Irwin and Dave Scott are being briefed on the 1-G trainer by Don Jessup at the General Motors Delco Electronics Division, formerly known as the Defense Research Laboratories, in Santa Barbara, California. GM had built numerous lunar exploration developmental vehicles for NASA since the early 1960s, and engineered and built the LRV's Mobility Subsystem for Boeing. (Sam Romano)

Jim Irwin and Dave Scott are being briefed on the 1-G trainer by Don Jessup at the General Motors Delco Electronics Division, formerly known as the Defense Research Laboratories, in Santa Barbara, California. GM had built numerous lunar exploration developmental vehicles for NASA since the early 1960s, and engineered and built the LRV's Mobility Subsystem for Boeing. (Sam Romano)

landing site and to observe their surroundings, identify and then describe in detail what they saw. All the astronauts enthusiastically felt that this informal training session was most worthwhile. The crew of Apollo 13 never landed on the Moon due to a catastrophic failure in the Service Module, but they returned to Earth safely. Silver did not conduct a similar training session with the crew of Apollo 14, that task being assigned to another geologist. However, with Apollo 15, Silver worked closely with Dave Scott and Jim Irwin and the two astronauts proved to be superb studies.

While the prime and backup crews for Apollo 15 had been performing mission-specific geologic training since May 1970, the first use of Grover in mission training took place on 2 and 3 November. The location was Merriam Crater and Cinder Lake Crater Field at Flagstaff, Arizona. Astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin took part, along with Dick Gordon and Harrison Schmitt. The crews conducted location, sampling and crater avoidance exercises at Cinder Lake, while a 5 km traverse was performed at Merriam Crater's maar, lava flows and ash-fall deposits. When Grover wasn't being used for crew traverse training, it was pressed into use for LRV equipment validation. In December 1970, Grover was used to simulate the field of view of the Ground-Commanded Television Assembly (GCTA) using a 35 mm still camera, and to assist in recommending procedures for increasing the geologic return for the J-missions.

''The reason we spent so much time working geology and training on geology,'' David Scott recalled, ''was so that we'd be able to make judgments on the Moon and use that flexibility. The more we learned, the more able we were to adjust where we were going to achieve the basic objectives. And, of course, we didn't really know what the surface looked like until we got there because of the lack of high resolution photos. The reason we went out on these many, many days with Lee Silver and Jim Head and all those guys was to get tuned up in areas similar to Hadley (such as Taos), such that when we got there we could make the necessary adjustments. At the same time, the geologists back in mission control in the back room - the same guys that trained us - had this communications link where we understood what we were saying to each other.''

By the end of 1970, the USGS employed over 200 personnel in support of Apollo, and now included the Branch of Surface Planetary Exploration. In 1971, a total of twenty-eight geologic field training exercises were scheduled and included the crews of Apollo 15, 16 and 17. But not all them involved Grover or Explorer. These training exercises had to be coordinated with the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston because of the training schedule for other aspects of the missions, which took place every day of the week and were planned months in advance. The USGS was not only involved with the training, traverse planning and lunar surface map production, the geologists also assisted in drafting the preliminary science reports and the sample return reports after each mission. The workload and pace were unrelenting, but it was at the same time exhilarating. The ability to accomplish all this was down to the men and women Shoemaker had selected to work there.

The geologic field training of the astronauts had evolved over the decade from a fairly rudimentary protocol to a sophisticated and specialized training program. Once Harrison Schmitt was accepted into the astronaut training program, he also

Apollo 15 backup crew members Dick Gordon (left) and Harrison Schmitt train in the "rock pile'' with the 1-G Trainer at Kennedy Space Center during July 1971. Gordon is adjusting the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera while Schmitt attaches a Sample Collection Bag to Gordon's PLSS. Good view of the Lunar Hand Tool Carrier in the open position. ( NASA)

Apollo 15 backup crew members Dick Gordon (left) and Harrison Schmitt train in the "rock pile'' with the 1-G Trainer at Kennedy Space Center during July 1971. Gordon is adjusting the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera while Schmitt attaches a Sample Collection Bag to Gordon's PLSS. Good view of the Lunar Hand Tool Carrier in the open position. ( NASA)

worked within the Astronaut Office to improve the methods of geologic field training for the Apollo crews, which eventually included himself as Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17. In a pre-mission press conference, he explained at length the evolution of the geologic training program at NASA that involved not only the USGS, but universities as well.

"It started out, as you might expect, based largely on the experience geologists had had with training students, generally the common students at the university level,'' Schmitt explained. "And, before too much time had passed, it became fairly clear that this way was not an effective way to train highly motivated, very intelligent men for the specific task of exploring the Moon in a geologic sense. The problem was, over the space of time, you could expose them to geology [but] you couldn't be concentrated enough so they would get a fundamental background like that normally given to a university student. It had to be interspersed with many other activities. And there were never any final examinations - nothing that would keep iterating and reiterating the principles that were being taught. So it became obvious that the normal way of teaching, that is the classes and occasional field trips, was not efficient. It was effective and it brought to the surface considerable interest for the field of geology and science in general, but it was not getting to the meat of the problem of exploring the Moon in a geologic sense.

''But those of us who were concerned about the problem,'' Schmitt continued, ''gradually brought into the program some of the very finest professional teachers we could find at the university level in geology. It turned out that these people, as is usually the case with very fine teachers, were also some of the top scientific minds, in their particular areas especially, that we could have found. And the combination was unbeatable. I'm thinking of people like Leon Silver at Caltech, Richard Johns at Stamford, Bob Sharp at Caltech, Jim Hayes at Harvard. These are the kind of people that we found, who could give the type of geological information we needed in training, in the context of what the lunar problems were. They treated the geometric and philosophical problems that we were going to deal with in geology on the Moon. They treated them, again and again, within the context and the kinds of constraints that a man would be dealing with on the Moon, and this turned out to be a much more efficient way to train. Each trip could build on the last trip. We were not only learning procedures, but we were learning geology at the same time.''

The field training of the Apollo 15 and Apollo 16 astronauts during March 1971 was typical of the thorough training conducted that would help to ensure the success

Dave Scott Astronaut
The 1-G Trainer was used indoors at KSC for training to configure the LRV after deployment. Jim Irwin (left) is standing behind the Lunar Hand Tool Carrier of the LRV Aft Pallet Assembly. Dave Scott is holding a 70mm film canister for the Hasselblad camera on the right-hand seat. (NASA)

of the missions on the Moon. Between 10 and 12 March, David Scott, Jim Irwin, Dick Gordon, Harrison Schmitt, Joe Allen and Robert Parker were accompanied by Lee Silver, William Muehlberger, V.L. Freeman, Gordon Swann and M.H. Hait to the Rio Grande Gorge outside of Taos, New Mexico, which had been selected to simulate the perceived conditions with the Hadley Rille on the Moon. Geologists William Phinney and Gary Loftgren from the Manned Spacecraft Center also participated in the test. Putty Mills and William Tinnin brought Grover and the prime crew conducted two four-hour traverses, with real-time mission support as the crew gave geologic descriptions of their findings. On 29 and 30 March, the crew of Apollo 16 was in Flagstaff for training trips to Merriam Crater and the Cinder Lake Crater Field. The prime crew conducted eight-kilometer traverses in Grover, with Anthony England, standing in for backup crew member Edgar Mitchell, in the Explorer. These simulated traverses were backed up by a full contingent of USGS and MSC personnel who provided ''mission back room'' support as would happen during the mission to the Descartes region of the Moon, including evaluating, reviewing and monitoring the progress of the astronauts. Emphasis was placed on the craters, block fields and regolith stratigraphy that the crew would conceivably encounter on the Moon. A geophysical debriefing took place after the end of the second day's traverse.

Grover was proving its worth in the mission traverse training of the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 crews, but it was only one aspect of the LRV training that took place many months prior to their actual missions. Training also took place with the 1-G trainer and deployment trainer at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, simulation training at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas and even /g gravity training aboard NASA's infamous ''Vomit Comet.''

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