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Apollo Geology Training and Field Exercises

Last revised 8 December 2015.


Beginning in March 1964, the Apollo astronauts participated in a number of geology field trips designed, firstly, to introduce the astronaut corps to geologic concepts and, latterly, to give crews assigned to specific missions detailed training in the types of observations they might expect to make on the Moon. Details can be found in a training history by Gerald Schaber with a US Geological Survey perspective and one by William C. Phinney with a Manned Spacecraft Center perspective. Relations between the two groups of geologists were often strained. Apollo 17 astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt suggests that both accounts be considered in gaining a balanced perspective.

Appendices from draft copy of Phinney's account were provided for the ALSJ in 2002 by Glen Swanson, historian at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The appendices are entitled "Geology Field Exercises: Early Training" and "Geology Field Exercises for Apollo Missions". They provided lists of Apollo astronaut field trips including training locations and the names of the astronauts who participated in each.

In 2004, Jennifer Troxell, then an intern working with Steve Garber of the NASA Headquarters History Office, independantly compiled a spreadsheet devoted to Apollo geology training using information gleaned from the History Office archives, from Phinney's draft, and from Don Wilhelms' book "To a Rocky Moon" Troxell's spreadsheet has much of the same information as the Phinney appendices but also details sources and lists relevant NASA photographs.

NASA photos S64-23846 and S64-23847 show a group of twenty astronauts at Philmont Scout Ranch during the 3-6 June 1964 field trip. From left to right, they are: Pete Conrad, Buzz Aldrin, Dick Gordon, Ted Freeman, Charlie Bassett, Walt Cunningham, Neil Armstrong, Donn Eisele, Rusty Schweikhart, Jim Lovell, Mike Collins, Elliot See, Gene Cernan (behind See), Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Gordon Cooper, C.C. Williams (behind Cooper), Bill Anders, Dave Scott, Al Bean.