Thursday, January 24, 2013

'When we blew up Arizona to simulate the Moon'

The first round alone required 141.75 kg of dynamite and 6120 kg of fertilizer mixed with fuel oil. Archive photograph [NASA/USGS].
Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley
The Atlantic

In the late 1960s, NASA created an off-world analogue with dynamite and fertilizer bombs outside Flagstaff, Arizona, so that astronauts could train for the Apollo missions.

Thanks to a well-timed tip from landscape blogger Alex Trevi of Pruned, Venue made a detour on our exit out of Flagstaff, Arizona, to visit the old black cinder fields of an extinct volcano--where, incredibly, NASA and its Apollo astronauts once practiced their, at the time, forthcoming landing on the moon.

The straight-forwardly named Cinder Lake, just a short car ride north by northeast from downtown Flagstaff, is what NASA describes as a lunar analogue: a simulated off-world landscape used to test key pieces of gear and equipment, including hand tools, scientific instruments, and wheeled rovers.

Apollo 15 Jim Irwin and Dave Scott of Apollo 15 train in experimental vehicle "Grover" [NASA/USGS].
As Northern Arizona University explains, NASA's Astrogeology Research Program "started in 1963 when USGS and NASA scientists transformed the northern Arizona landscape into a re-creation of the Moon. They blasted hundreds of different-sized craters in the earth to form the Cinder Lake crater field, creating an ideal training ground for astronauts."

Read the full and copiously illustrated article HERE.

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