Astronauts Visit Craters of the Moon
On August 22, 1969, Apollo 14
astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Joe Engle, and Eugene Cernan
landed at the airport in Arco. They then proceeded to Craters of the
Moon where they explored the lava landscape and learned the basics of
volcanic geology in preparation for future trips to the moon.
The astronauts came to Craters of the Moon because
they were pilots and not geologists. NASA felt that these were men who
might someday be walking on the moon. They would also have the rare
opportunity to collect samples of different rocks on the moon. Since
only a limited amount of material (850 pounds total in 6 moon landings)
could be brought back, it was important that they know enough geology to
pick up the most scientifically valuable specimens.
Since much of the moon's surface is covered by
volcanic materials, it was very important that they know something about
the lava they would encounter. This was the reason that the astronauts
visited such places as Hawaii, Iceland, and Craters of the Moon.
Visiting these places allowed the astronauts to become educated
observers who could describe the surface features they were exploring to
geologists back on Earth.
In 1999, Astronauts Cernan, Engle, and Mitchell
(Shepherd died in 1998) returned to Craters of the Moon to help
celebrate the Monument's 75th Anniversary, 30 years after training here.
When here they all talked about how beneficial their training here had
been and how knowing about what was "in their own backyard" prepared
them so well for their missions to the moon.