They were here to train for their moon mission
This summer marks 50 years since NASA dispatched the Apollo 16 astronauts to Sudbury for field training ahead of their trip to the moon. Commander John Young and pilot Charles Duke, whose spacecraft would launch from Cape Canaveral less than a year later on April 16, 1972, teamed up with experts from Inco to study Sudbury’s impact crater and its unique geological structures.
NASA hoped that the field training, which took place from July 7 to 9, 1971, would prepare the astronauts for lunar surface experiments. It turns out, the excursion didn’t prepare them as much as they’d hoped.
“We were very interested, at the time, in trying to work up the geology of the moon. The great debate in the literature prior to our first moon landing was how much of the moon was formed by volcanic activity and how much of it was formed by impact structures,” said Michael Dence.
“That’s a question that goes back 400 years to Galileo. There was a lot of literature about that. That was the reason, in a sense, for my being employed by the government. There was this question of whether anything on Earth resembles the moon, and if so, how we could identify it.”
Dence, who is now considered an international expert in the subject, was one of the pioneers in the study of asteroid impact craters like the one in Sudbury.
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