Sudbury was a mineral training ground for NASA astronauts – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – May 27, 2016)

Laughter erupts from Ruth Debicki of the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) when asked if her brush with space exploration royalty in the early 1970s stands out as a career highlight.

“We do lots of interesting stuff and we meet lots of interesting people,” replied Debicki, the OGS’s land use policy and planning coordinator based in Sudbury. “In the OGS’s 125 years of history, this was one day out of 45,000.”

Back in the spring of 1972, Debicki was a junior staffer in the small resident geologist office in Sudbury when her boss, Ken Card, fielded a call from NASA. The three-man crew of Apollo 17 — Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt — were arriving in Sudbury, May 24-25, for geological training.

“The boss said, we’ve got to go take the astronauts out on this date,” recalled Debicki. “It was a surprise, but you never know what’s going to happen.” The Apollo astronauts were, and still remain, almost immortal figures, but she wasn’t particularly star-struck; just another day on the job.

“No, I was happy to be able to share the unique geoscience that we have in Sudbury.” The year before, in June 1971, NASA dispatched the Apollo 16 astronauts to Sudbury for field training, but they worked exclusively with the geologists from Inco.

When NASA decided that Apollo 17 would be the sixth and last mission to the moon, Harrison Schmitt, who was also a geologist, was bumped up in the crew assignments.

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