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Geology, Lunar Mapping, and Telescopes

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After about 20 minutes of introductions and hand shaking, the visitors went to their hotel rooms at the Sentry Hiway House in East Flagstaff.  Here the astronauts changed out of their business suits and into weather-appropriate thermal underwear and training clothes.

Loading up into a fleet of gray government vehicles, the group headed out to Meteor Crater at 9:30 a.m., where USGS  astrogeologists Gene Shoemaker and Charles Marshall taught the astronauts about this distinct impact structure that serves as an excellent analog to similar features on the moon.  The group then ate lunch before traveling over to Sunset Crater, where monument superintendent Russell Maham, ranger Don Morris, and geologist Bill Breed of the Museum of Northern Arizona taught the group about the geology of volcanic features.

After this daytime training, Lowell director John Hall hosted dinner for about 35 people at his recently built Lowell Observatory home. The astronauts, trainers, and other dignitaries enjoyed a buffet dinner prepared by Hall’s wife Ruth. Years later Lowell astronomer Henry Giclas recalled the event, “Even though before-dinner libations were served, things started out rather stiffly with all the NASA brass on their good behavior.  Then Bernice (Henry’s wife) made some smart remark about the only experience she knew about exploring the moon was when the cow jumped over it, which cracked everybody up, and the party took on a much more relaxed and informal mood.”

With dinner over, the group headed over to Lowell’s ACIC office, located in the old machine shop (the ACIC office was later enlarged; years after the ACIC left Lowell, the original shop/ACIC office was torn down, while the newer, enlarged portion was converted into today’s Hendricks Building/Administrative offices).

For the next hour, the astronauts were briefed on lunar geography and geology while learning about the ACIC’s mapping efforts of the Moon and Mars.  Some of the participating officials included Lowell director Hall, Lowell ACIC office head Bill Cannell, retired Lowell astronomer Earl Slipher, ACIC artist Patricia Bridges, Gene Shoemaker and James Smith of ACIC’s St. Louis office.  

At midnight the contingent broke up into three groups for telescope viewing; one group stayed at Lowell to use the Clark 24-inch refractor, another went to Arizona State College (today known as Northern Arizona University) to use their 24-inch reflector, and the other headed to the U.S. Naval Observatory and the 40-inch reflector.  Henry Giclas, on hand at Lowell’s Clark Telescope, recalled one of the astronauts remarking, “and this is where we are going”, as he viewed the Moon.

Seeing conditions were not great but adequate and the observers saw Mars and the Moon among other celestial objects.  In viewing the Moon, they correlated lunar features to the terrestrial ones they had seen in the field at Meteor Crater and Sunset Crater.

Some of the astronauts finished telescope viewing by 2:30 a.m., the others not until 3:30.  They then went back to their rooms and slept for four hours. Conrad commented, “One thing you can say for the space program, it has invented the 26 hour day.”