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Life on Mars

Monday, May 15, 2006


There is life on Mars,

even if,

it's just a mouse.

Missing History of Astrogeology Saved

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gerald G. Schaber (left) and dad at the launch of Apollo 15 (July, 1971). Schaber helped to develop a geologic field training program for Apollo astronauts. He was also involved in the traverse planning and production (in Flagstaff) of the Lunar Surface Exploration Map Data Package for Apollo 15.

A "must read" Open File Report that is a comprehensive account of the USGS participation in the Apollo era, from its conception through the end of Project Apollo, has been completed by Gerald G. “Jerry” Schaber during the time he was with the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology, working as a Scientist Emeritis. The work was encouraged and suported by former and current Program Chiefs of Astrogeology, Wes Ward and Lisa Gaddis respectively.

The Open File Report, The U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology-- A Chronology of Activities from Conception though the End of Project Apollo, covers the period of the 1960s-1970s capturing the roles of geoscientist and support personnel working for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Branch of Astrogeology, in Flagstaff, and elsewhere, in support of expeditions to the Moon. Although there are books written by Don Wilhelms that include accounts of Astrogeology’s research and support of NASA’s unmanned lunar spacecraft missions during the Apollo era, they lack detail regarding Astrogeology’s concurrent activities of the “Manned Lunar Exploration Group.” Jerry Schaber has filled that significant gap of history with regard to the participation of the USGS. Astrogeology celebrates this accomplishment.

“This work has been a true labor of love, taking place over many years and requiring much labor and perseverance to get into ‘print’,” says Lisa Gaddis.

The report reveals intimate details such as Astrogeology’s origin and working conditions during these times, studies at Meteor Crater, involvement in telescopic Moon mapping, planning for NASA’s Lunar Missions activities, Flagstaff in the media “Spotlight” during Apollo 11, and also one of the Branch’s own Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt's walk on the moon during Apollo 17. It captures Eugene M. Shoemaker’s, the Father of Astrogeology, dream of doing field mapping on the surface of the Moon, and recounts how he reaches the lunar surface. There is a wealth of information filled with warmth, humor, struggles, failures and successes-- viewpoints of various participants telling rich and complex stories that leave the reader proud to be an American.

Jerry conducted interviews with sixty-six current and past employees of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Branch of Astrogeology and Branch of Surface Planetary Exploration (the latter in existence from 1967 to 1973). He cited many texts, accessed Astrogeology's personal daily logs and monthly reports, consulted unpublished memoirs of Astrogeology’s geologist John F. “Jack” McCauley's transcripts, and NASA’s Apollo Journal web site which is noted as an excellent resource to capture these fine moments in history, and many other references to bring this valuable information to our fingertips.

This is a highly readable account. It is serious scholarship, suitable for the general public, and those with an interest in science, in the rich culture of history in the making. It is for those who’d like to celebrate their hometown’s (Flagstaff) contribution to space history in familiar locations such as Meteor Crater, where astronaut training took place, use of the Cinder Lakes volcanic field to create Moon-like terrain, where Apollo 15 astronauts James Irwin and David Scott test-drove a geologic rover, and much more.

The publications consists of text, figures, tables, appendixes, and many photographs from the branch history photo collection. This report has a total of 1,162 pages; there are links to separate files, tables, and appendix files that are listed on the web pages. Gerald G. Schaber's Open File Report is available on the World Wide Web at URL .

Coming in June: an interview with Gerald G. Schaber.