Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Training Apollo astronauts in lunar orbital observations and photography

Farouk El-Baz
Training Apollo astronauts in lunar orbital observations and photography (in Analogs for planetary exploration, W. Brent Garry (editor) and Jacob E. Bleacher (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2011) 483: 49-65


Planning and implementation of astronaut observations and photography from lunar orbit during the Apollo program were based on two expectations: (1) orbiting astronauts would be able to add to our knowledge by describing lunar features from their unique vantage point, and, (2) as illustrated by the Gemini Earth-orbital missions, expertly obtained photographs would allow us to place detailed information from field exploration into a regional context. To achieve these goals, the astronauts had to be thoroughly familiar with concepts of lunar geology and intellectually prepared to note and document the unexpected. This required mission-specific training to add to their store of knowledge about the Moon. Because the activity was not part of the original program objectives, the training was conducted at the behest of the astronauts. The training time grew from occasional briefings on the early flights to extensive classroom sessions and flyover exercises for a formal "experiment" on the last three missions. This chapter summarizes the historical development and salient results of training the Moon-bound astronauts for these tasks. The astronaut-derived orbital observations and photographs increased our knowledge of the Moon beyond that possible from robotic sensors. Outstanding results include: realization of the limitations of photographic film to depict natural lunar surface colors; description and documentation of unknown features on the lunar farside; observation by Apollo 15 of dark-haloed craters that helped in the selection of the Apollo 17 landing site; and real-time confirmation that the "orange soil" discovered at the Apollo 17 site occurs elsewhere on the Moon.

ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 483
Title: Training Apollo astronauts in lunar orbital observations and photography
Title: Analogs for planetary exploration
Author(s): El-Baz, Farouk
Author(s): Garry, W. Brenteditor
Author(s): Bleacher, Jacob E.editor
Affiliation: Boston University, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston, MA, United States
Affiliation: Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ, United States
Pages: 49-65
Published: 2011
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 49
Accession Number: 2012-041753
Categories: Extraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables, geol. sketch maps
Secondary Affiliation: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201222
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal