Traverse Planning And Mission Geologic Training For The Jmissions

In October 1969, USGS geologist Gordon Swann submitted his proposal to NASA to be Principal Investigator on the Geology Experiment Team for Apollo 14 and 15. When Swann's proposal was accepted, he asked Gerald Schaber to be one of his co-investigators for those missions. This specifically involved traverse planning and subsequent mission geologic training and traverse map production. With the addition of the LRV for Apollo 15, traverse planning and training grew considerably. Swann asked Schaber and other Branch of Astrogeology geologists to perform geologic mapping of various training sites in Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and other locations using stereo aerial photography. This was meant to simulate the mapping of the early Apollo lunar landing sites using photographs taken by Lunar Orbiter. This effort was significant because several of the co-investigators who mapped the geology of the training sites would also map the actual traverses for the Apollo J-missions. On a three-day field test from 30 September through 2 October 1970 at the Merriam Crater test site north of Flagstaff, Grover was used to evaluate lunar surface maps in various scales, over a 15 km proposed traverse planned for Apollo 15. Weeks later, Gerald Schaber, along with Jim Head of Bellcomm, presented the preliminary Apollo 15 walking and LRV traverses to the Surface Working Panel group at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. Dave Scott and Jim Irwin were present.

"They asked me, 'OK, Jerry, why are we going there?','' Schaber recalled when queried about a specific area at the Hadley-Apennine region. ''And I told them, 'We are going out to St. George Crater because it is a large crater, it intersects the Rille, and it's on the bottom of the slope from Hadley Delta. So you want to sample that, go up the slope of Hadley Delta to try to find anorthosite, and you want to go over to the Rille and look for layering.' We mapped the landing sites in various scales -50,000:1, 25,000:1 and 12,500:1 - and the Survey's Cartography group in Flagstaff produced the maps. We didn't have computers back then, so every time they wanted to make a change in the traverse, we had to recalculate the oxygen usage, the logistics - the whole thing - all by hand. We also had to have contingency traverses for walking if the LRV failed to work. We had rules from the mission operations people about how much time leeway we had. You couldn't get them back to the LM with only two or three minutes of oxygen left. Dave Scott was one helluva sharp geology type and listener.''

Dave Scott had flown with Neil Armstrong on Gemini 8 in March 1966 and served as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 9 in March 1969 - a complex ten-day mission to validate many aspects of the Lunar Module in low-Earth-orbit. He had been involved with geologic field and classroom training for six years, and he took the utmost interest in the traverse planning meetings which would establish the places he and Irwin would explore on the Moon.

David Scott Astronaut
Dave Scott and Jim Irwin sit before a traverse simulator in this July 1971 photo. Behind the astronauts sits Dr. Joseph P. Allen, who would be their CapCom on Apollo 15. (Courtesy NASA)

"The real reason behind the rover,'' stated Scott, "was so we could plan traverses that covered the distance and a variety of geology that would be expected on the Moon, because if you didn't have wheels, you'd have to walk and you couldn't cover the distance. We tried to simulate our geology traverses during training as closely as possible to what we'd actually do on the Moon. My philosophy was always do everything on the Earth as absolutely close as possible as you can do it before you get to the Moon. Then you learn things about how long it takes you to get from one place to another, what the CapCom might be doing in between and what the geologists might be doing. We actually simulated a day's work by having the Grover. We had to spend a lot of time on walking traverses because we didn't know whether the rover would work on not. So we had two sets of traverses, even on our Cuff Check List, one set of which was on the rover and the other set would be if the rover didn't work. If, for example, it worked on the first EVA but didn't work on the next two, we had very detailed backup traverses planned for walking. That was one of the challenges of the first J-mission. There was a high level of confidence, obviously, but nobody knew whether it was really going to work, and we had to achieve the geology goals. So, the planning included both the driving traverses and walking traverses, and we did that in our training too.''

Sam Romano (standing). Dr. Mieczyslaw G. Bekker (center) and Ferenc Pavlics pose with the GM-built 1-G Trainer outside the Delco Electronics Division in Santa Barbara, California. The 1-G Trainer incorporated numerous changes from the LRV in order to operate in Earth's gravity. Note the pneumatic tires with wire mesh and metal chevrons applied to the tire's surface. (Sam Romano)

Sam Romano (standing). Dr. Mieczyslaw G. Bekker (center) and Ferenc Pavlics pose with the GM-built 1-G Trainer outside the Delco Electronics Division in Santa Barbara, California. The 1-G Trainer incorporated numerous changes from the LRV in order to operate in Earth's gravity. Note the pneumatic tires with wire mesh and metal chevrons applied to the tire's surface. (Sam Romano)

A key individual in the geologic training of the Apollo astronauts involved in the upcoming J-missions was Leon T. Silver. Like Shoemaker, Schmitt and many others geologists who became deeply involved in the Apollo program, Silver was a graduate of Caltech. Silver first met Shoemaker in the summer of 1948 when they both worked at the USGS on a government program searching for uranium sources for possible nuclear weapons development. Silver became specialized in isotopic geochemistry. He did not become actively involved in the lunar program until he was asked to build a lunar sample laboratory at Caltech, where he was a professor. Silver watched the crude television transmission from Apollo 11 as Armstrong and Aldrin collected their lunar samples during their brief historic landing on 20 July 1969, knowing he would be among the first to have the opportunity to examine and date some of the samples they brought back. In the meantime, Harrison Schmitt had seen an opportunity to focus the geologic training of the Apollo astronauts even more and when he approached Gene Shoemaker and discussed how this might be accomplished, Shoemaker recommended Lee Silver at Caltech - his former professor - as the ideal candidate.

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