Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Training Apollo's First Lunar Scientists

Geologists played a key role in the Apollo program.

Gene-Shoemaker.jpg
Gene Shoemaker | NASA via USGS

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Putting a human on the moon was an epic feat of engineering. But another group of researchers made the Apollo missions successful — and they weren’t at NASA.

Geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey used lunar photographs and telescopes to make the first detailed maps of the lunar surface. They tested equipment and spacesuits in the rocky Arizona desert, even collecting rocks and measurements while fully suited. Without geologists, the Apollo missions might have been little more than rocket ship stunts.

Much of the credit goes to Gene Shoemaker, who dreamed of going to the moon well before the space race popularized the idea in the early 1960s. He coined the term astrogeology while studying the moon from afar and preparing to someday visit the lunar surface. By the time that dream was actually possible, a medical problem disqualified him from astronaut service. Still, he went on to become one of the most influential scientists in the space program.

In this image, Shoemaker demonstrates an early spacesuit prototype in 1964. He poses, of course, as if he were sampling rocks.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In