The Sculptured Hills

"Let me tell you, this rover is a machine. I don't know if it saw that hill we're climbing, but I did,'' Cernan commented to Houston as they drove toward the Sculptured Hills. The terrain was undulating and far from flat. Cernan stopped the rover briefly for Schmitt to take a sample from a roughly 40 m dark-rimmed crater with scattered small blocks inside the rim. These turned out to be "instant rock,'' the phrase they used to describe lunar soil compacted by meteor impact. Geologically speaking, these were identified as clods that were ejected immediately after impact. Schmitt used the LRV Sampler to collect the samples.

"Your wheels are just chewing those things up,'' Schmitt said, commenting on the friable structure of the clods, being far weaker than the breccias that had once been molten and then cooled. Cernan found a suitable place to park the rover for the Station 8 stop, but once again the slope was severe enough to warrant him parking the LRV facing down hill so they could both get off the vehicle safely. Cernan had to perform his now-routine dusting duties to the LCRU, the Television Control Unit and the TV camera itself. He aligned the High-Gain Antenna and turned the TV camera on and Ed Fendell soon had the camera panning the entire site. Schmitt immediately went to work sampling and describing his discoveries.

"Our fender's beginning to fade,'' Cernan discovered, "and, uh-oh, the clip came off [the replacement fender but not the Rover] on the inside; that's what's wrong.

Video images from the LRV were picked up by tracking stations in Australia or Goldstone, California in the U.S. This is the video processing lab at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Facility in Canberra, Australia. (Colin Mackellar)

We'll have to fix that before we start. The outside one's holding, but the inside one's not.'' Cernan would deal with this before leaving Station 8.

"And we'd also remind you that we'd like a rake soil sample here, too,'' Parker reminded them. "That may be the only way we can try to pick up some stuff other than sub-floor, if that has indeed come down from the top of the Sculptured Hills.''

After photo-documenting the rock, Schmitt pushed it down slope, but in /g gravity, it moved slowly and soon stopped. Schmitt sampled the soil that had been under the rock, which went into bag No. 545. Cernan then pounded the rock with his hammer and broke off some sizable pieces for samples.

"This is about a 50-50 mixture of what looks like maskelynite or at least blue-gray plagioclase, and a very light yellow-tan mineral, probably orthopyroxene. It's fairly coarsely crystalline,'' Schmitt stated for the benefit of the scientists in the Backroom in Houston. Ed Fendell had been panning the TV camera over the entire site and this gave Bill Muehlberger and the other scientists enough information to request a rake sample near the rover, which Schmitt proceeded to collect. Schmitt and Cernan also took more photographs of the area. One of the last tasks at Station 8 was to secure the loose portions of the temporary fender under the clip. Dust had been thrown up on the right rear of the rover due to the loose fender fix.

"Boy, everything is stiff. Everything is just full of dust,'' Cernan exclaimed. "There's got to be a point where the dust just overtakes you, and everything mechanical quits moving.''

Cernan succeeded in securing the temporary fender with the map clip and pronounced it fixed. Although not a perfect fix, this solution proved effective in keeping the dust problem to a bearable minimum. Lunar dust would indeed prove to be man's greatest challenge while on the Moon. Before future explorers return to the Moon, the effects of lunar dust on mechanisms, seals, air filtration systems and the astronauts themselves will provide an entirely separate field of study in pursuit of effective solutions. Cernan and Schmitt spent several more minutes making sure they had all their samples on the rover and their tools stowed. Cernan then powered down the TV camera and they climbed aboard the rover, buckled their seatbelts, and moved on to Station 9.

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