Experiment Operations During Apollo EVAs

Experiment: Lunar Geology - General

Acronym: none

Apollo 12 astronaut with the tongs used to grab small rocks without bending over (AS-12-48-7148). See also Figure 11 for the scoop.

PI/Engineer: see below
Other Contacts: see below

Apollo Flight Nos.: 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17
Apollo Exp't No. S 059

Discipline: lunar geosciences

Weight: NA, See Lunar Geology - tools
Dimensions: NA

Manufacturer: NA

The geological field work at the six Apollo sites was rigorously planned - some say too well orchestrated with no time for human thought, although this improved in the later "J" missions. The efforts behind the sites selections and scientific objectives are beyond the scope of this database. A large body of documentation exists on this subject. Several tasks were repeated at many stations, and average times are available. The first task was generally a geological description of the area, which took ~ 5 minutes, including photography. Additional tasks are discussed below.

Unloading from the LM: NA

Transporting by foot or MET:
The few tools used on A-11 were carried by hand. The EMU had attach points for sample bags. The A-12 crew had a small rack which held their tools. This was carried by hand. On A-14, the Modularized Equipment Transporter (see misc. tools and equipment) was used to transport the tool rack (the same as on A-12) and other equipment during longer traverses. On A-12 and most later flights a clip on a cable which rolled up on a reel which was strapped to hoses on the front of the EMU was used to which several tools could be attached. This was known as a "yo-yo."

Loading/unloading tools/exp'ts on LRV:
On A-15, 16, & 17, the tools for the geological traverses were carried on a rack at the rear of the LRV. This rack could swing out to expose both sides of it. The sample return containers also attached to this rack so that the samples could be easily stowed. See Lunar Geology - Tools.

Site selection:
Performed before launch by a site selection committee on the basis of scientific goals within operational (landing, orbital mechanics, etc.) constraints. Several 'stations' were selected in advance for each traverse, with operations at each station carefully planned.

Deploying experiment: NA

Check-out of experiment: NA

Operation of experiment: NA

Repairs to experiment: NA

Recovery/take-down of experiment: NA

Stowing experiment for return:
The samples were bagged and placed in the ALSRC for return.

Loading/unloading samples on LRV:
Once the LRV was available, the sample collection bags were attached to a tool rack which was attached to the LRV. The bagged samples were placed in these for eventual placement into the "rock boxes" (ALSRC) and loading into the LM.

Loading of exp't/samples into the LM:
A lunar equipment conveyor (LEC) was included on the early flights for the loading of the sample return boxes into the LM. It was more trouble than it was worth, and later crews merely carried the boxes up the ladder by hand.

Stowing of package once in the LM:
The A-11 crew weighed the rock boxes outside, but the other crews carried them directly inside. After getting the samples into the LM and repressurizing, the boxes were weighed. The A-16 crew had to do some shuffling of rocks between boxes to keep them below 45 pounds each for weight and balance concerns. They also had to report the weights to Earth and wait to see if they could bring all the samples home. If not, the excess would have been toseed onto the surface before ascent. On A-12, this scale broke due to a loose nut.

A study indicated that, because of the temperature on the moon's surface, lunar samples would cool the LM cabin when placed in the rock box inside the cabin; this apparently because of the "dawn" sampling. Anecdote from J. Young tells of his hand freezing to a rock which he had let cool in the shadow of the LM after he had brought it inside. After ~5 seconds it came loose. In the future, hot rocks could heat the area in which they were stored and be a burn hazard.

Sampling operations - soil, rocks:
The heart of the geology "experiment" was in the collection of samples while on traverses. The EVA on A-11 was limited to within two hundred meters of the LM. On A-12, walking traverses up to 500 m from the LM were performed. The Apollo 14 crew had the MET to carry their tools and went nearly 1.4 km from the LM. Once the LRV was available, traverses of up to 20 km, lasting up to 7.5 hours were possible, with stops at several geologically interesting stations. These were limited by the walk-back time to the LM (in the event of an LRV failure) vs. PLSS consumables.

A-11 had difficulty collecting the bulk sample . Difficulty scooping up the material without throwing it out as the scoop came free created some problem. It was almost impossible to collect a full scoop of material, and the task required double the planned time. The fact that the MESA was in shadow made the operation difficult, and they recommended a yaw maneuver just before touchdown to put this area into the sunlight.

During solo attempts to sample soil, an astronaut would have to hold the end of the loaded scoop in one hand, an open sample bag in the other, and then, with both arms extended, try to pour the soil into the bag. Some crew developed the ability to do solo sampling with relative ease by "walking" a hand down the handle of a shovel until it was close to the actual scoop, then bagging the sample closer to the chest. For two people, soil sampling was easier: one person manipulated the scoop, the other the bag. A-12 crew comments indicate that geological operations on the moon are more difficult than on Earth because the color cues are not there. The lunar geologist has to look for texture, fracture, and luster, among other things, to aid in determining differences in rocks and minerals. Color differences were very slight. The samples were extensively photographed (usually) in-place before sampling, and the sampled area was photographed again post-sampling. A protocol was developed for documentation. The Preliminary Science Reports cross reference samples with photographs, sample numbers, and mission timeline.

The A-14 crew commented that they had a difficult time getting a single sample bag. When reaching for one, 2 or 3 would come loose. They would use one and the rest would fall to the ground. It was too difficult to recover them.

The A-15 crew emphasized their impression that their ability to identify rock types at the time of their collection seemed equal to their ability to do so during the many terrestrial field exercises of the training period. They felt basically unhampered (although somewhat slowed physically) by the bulky equipment. (Perhaps their impression - different from the A-12 crew - reflects a greater amount of pre-flight training - Ed.)

Documented samples, those with extensive photographic coverage, took ~3 minutes each on A-16. It was a two person activity. Activities included: CDR - describe sample and place gnomon down-sun with pointer leg at sample and color chart at 45deg to sun; take stereo pair cross-sun at f/8, 1/250, 7 feet; collect sample; take "after" photo cross-sun at f/8, 1/250, 7 feet; describe area of sample; pick up gnomon; proceed to next sample; LMP - describe sample, take down-sun photo at f/11, 1/250, 11 feet; prepare sample bag and report bag number; seal sample bag and place in collection bag; take locator photo using LRV in background cross sun at f/8, 1/250, 15 feet. Special samples included deep drill cores, CSSD (Contact Soil Sampling Devices), skim sample, and scoop sample. The A-16 crew had a lot of difficulty with their 20-bag dispensers falling off, which slowed down the sampling operations. Also, since each crewman had to place his samples into the bag which hung on the PLSS of the other crewman, their proximity to each other was necessarily close. Future sampling operations might benefit from allowing a crewman to place samples in a bag hanging on his own PLSS (requiring high flexibility in the suit) or perhaps from using a sack that can rest on the ground with a handle that can be reached for carrying like a shopping bag (per J. Young.)

Trenching was used to obtain sub-surface samples as well as to observe soil mechanics behavior. A deep trench (up to 60 cm) was dug on A-14. It took 3 minutes to dig a shallow trench on A-16. The soil mechanics studies added to this time, 10 minutes was allowed for such a trench on A-15 timelines. It was a two person activity, but was done solo by the LMP (Irwin) due to timeline problems caused by the vise with the core tube sample. Planned activities included: LMP - take locator photo with LRV in background, cross sun, f/8 1/250, 15 feet; use scoop to dig trench 3 - 8 inches deep 20deg off sun-line; take "after" photo down sun f/11, 1/250, 11 feet; CDR - select area to be sampled, place gnomon; take "after" photos, stereo pair cross sun f/8, 1/250, 7 feet.

The rake was designed to provide a technique to obtain samples of small rocks, 1 to 5 cm, which would otherwise be very hard to obtain operationally. Because of the mobility of the suit, it was possible to operate it with one hand. On A-16, it took 8 minutes to get a rake sample with soil. It was a two person activity. Activities included: CDR - select area for optimum rock distribution and place gnomon; describe area & relate to surrounding terrain; take cross sun stereo pair f/8, 1/250, 7 feet; use rake to collect 1 kg of rocks (.1 sample bag full); get sample bag ready, report number, hold for LMP to fill; close sample bag containing fines (see below); seal and stow in SCB (on LMP PLSS); take "after" shot, cross sun, f/8, 1/250, 7 feet; LMP - remove rake and extension handle from LRV; hand rake to CDR; take "before" photo down sun f/11, 1/250, 11 feet; make ready sample bag, report number; hold bag for CDR to fill; close and seal sample bag containing rocks (see above); stow in SCB (on CDR PLSS); collect 1 kg fines (1 bag full) from a pristine area; take locator shot, LRV or landmark in background, f/8, 1/250, 15 feet; stow rake on the LRV.

Three generations of core tubes existed. Early tubes were sometimes hard to drive into the compact lunar regolith and did not always retain the core when removed. By A-15 new, thin-walled, larger diameter core tubes were designed and worked well. On A-16, it took 5 minutes to get a single core tube, 11 minutes for a double core tube. A core sample vacuum container (CSVC) with single core took 9 minutes. It was a two person activity. Activities included: CDR - place gnomon nearby; remove hammer from LMP PLSS tool carrier; take stereo pair cross-sun at f/8, 1/250, 7 feet; photograph tube and LRV f/8, 1/250, 15 feet (locator photo); obtain core tube cap from LMP PLSS and cap tube; remove core tube from extension handle; pull follower pin; get core tube tool and seat core follower against core; stow core in collection bag; stow core tube tool and hammer; pick up gnomon; proceed to next sample; LMP - remove core tube from CDR's sample bag; assemble core tube/extension handle; report number; hold core tube upright on surface and press into surface by hand; drive tube into surface, comment on difficulty; remove core from surface; assist CDR; get extension handle from CDR and install scoop; proceed to next sample. Double core tube procedures were similar except that the cap of the lower tube must be removed to mate the lower tube to the upper tube. The caps were replaced when the tubes were disassembled and the follower on each tube was seated with tool. The double core was rammed as a unit before the tubes were disassembled.

A-15 was the first mission with the Apollo Lunar Surface Drill - ALSD. Drilling the second hole for the heat flow probe on A-15 proved difficult. Because of the high torque levels on the chuck-stem interface, the drill chuck bound to the stems; in once case it was necessary to destroy the stem itself to remove it from the chuck. The drill stem was hard to remove from the hole. It was left in while the other tasks were completed. At the end of the second EVA it took both astronauts working at the limit of their combined strengths to pull up the drill stem. It was physically exhausting. Redesign for the last 2 flights was accomplished. The "treadle" was developed for removal of drill stems on the last 2 flights. Also, the core stems were redesigned to allow clearing the dense soil from the hole. The A-16 crew had little difficulty in drilling or extracting the deep core. Very little soil was lost during capping of the core stems. A typical timeline from A-15 shows ~26 minutes for drilling the deep core, taking photos, removing, separating, and capping the core segments.

Navigating/recognizing landmarks:
On foot, navigation appears to have been the most difficult problem encountered during lunar surface activities (A-14 Mission Report.) Unexpected terrain features, as compared to relief maps, were the source of navigational problems. The ridges and valleys had an average change in elevation of ~3 to 5 m. The landmarks that were clearly apparent on the maps were not at all apparent on the surface. Even when the crewmen climbed to a ridge, the landmark often was not clearly in sight.

Later crews used the LRV, which had excellent navigation. A total of 5 hours was spent at traverse station stops on A-15, and the astronauts transmitted excellent descriptions of the lunar surface while in transit between stations. Also, much useful information was obtained from the TV camera on the LRV at 8 of the 12 stations.

Were there any hazards in the experiment?
i.e. hazardous materials (explosive, radioactive, toxic), sharp objects, high voltages, massive, bulky, tripping hazards, temperatures?
The act of obtaining a sample without a tool can be very awkward, but falling in lunar gravity is so slow as to give plenty of time to act. Gloves protectors were worn when working with the drill cores.

Was lighting a problem?
Generally not. Driving down-sun was difficult at first, but the crew adapted. The human eye could see into the shadowed areas very well. Operation in Earthshine seems very reasonable. Distance perception was difficult because the airless body did not provide the visual cue of haze.

Were the results visible to the crew? NA

Would you recommend any design changes?
More time for investigation. Crew and PI's alike recommend that field geology be given less of a time line and more freedom to explore and think while investigating. Whether they would settle for fewer samples in trade is an open question.

Were any special tools required?
See Lunar Geology - Tools.
See also Miscellaneous Tools and Equipment and Lunar Rover Vehicle - general.

Was the orientation of the experiment (i.e. horizontal/vertical) important? Difficult?
"The absence of any natural vertical features, coupled with the poor definition of the horizon and the weak gravity...causes difficulty in identification of level areas"...(This) "is further complicated by the fact that when...wearing a spacesuit, the center of mass...is higher and farther back than normal..." (A-11)

Was the experiment successful? Yes.

Were there related experiments on other flights? NA

Where was it stored during flight? NA

Were there any problems photographing the experiment?
A protocol of documenting samples while on traverses was developed that eventually worked quite well. When pressed for time, however, this was sometimes skipped.

What pre-launch and cruise req'ts were there?
power, thermal, late access, early recovery?

What was different between training and actual EVA?
See other comments above.
Trainers and PI's -

What problems were due to the suit rather than the experiment?
Suit stiffness produced severe forearm fatigue. Any movement or positioning of a leg, arm, hand, or finger away from the 'rest' configuration of the pressurized suit required constant muscle tension. Jack Schmitt described the problem as "like squeezing a tennis ball repetitively. Within a half hour or so, the forearm muscles were sufficiently fatigued to ache and you reached a much lower level of productivity using your hands than when you started. Eventually, by pacing yourself, you reached a constant level of forearm pain such that you could tolerate it and still do the job and not drop things and still apply sufficient grip to work, and that then went on for the rest of the EVA." There was also physical trauma that resulted from repeated reaching with the gloves. According to Schmitt "as you reached in the suit and just got a little bit of scraping from the rubber bladder, it grabbed at your fingernail and, eventually, lifted the nail right off the quick. It was a problem we knew about before the mission, because others had experienced it. Knowing that, I wore some nylon liners. I still had the problem, but not as rapidly as Gene Cernan, who didn't wear any liners. Ultimately, all my nail were lifted off the quick. And that was just continuous, traumatic soreness which faded into the background and you didn't worry about it. I don't recall having rough or damaged fingertips, but I think Gene and a lot of the other guys did."

Any experiences inside the LM of interest from the experiment/operations viewpoint?
No comments by crew.


Preliminary Science Reports for all landed missions.

"Moon Trip - A Personal Account of the Apollo Program and its Science", Bert King, Univ. of Houston, Houston, TX, 1989. Good general reference on training.

Apollo Scientific Experiments Data Handbook, JSC-09166, NASA TM X-58131, August, 1974, In JSC History Office.

Eric M. Jones, Working on the Moon: in: Proceedings of Space `90, ASCE, pp 1423 - 1432, 1990

Apollo 17 Final Lunar Surface Procedures, Vol. 1: Nominal Plans, MSC, 11/6/72

The personal files of Shoemaker and Masursky re lunar traverse planning and training are at the National Archives branch at Laguna Niguel, CA. Personal communication from Dr. Joseph N. Tatarewicz to Thomas Sullivan.

A great deal more information is available concerning geology training in the JSC History Office from the personal files of R. Parker

Apollo Program Summary Report, JCS-09423, April, 1975

Personal communication with J. Young, 1 April 1993.

Apollo 14 Technical Crew Debriefing 17 February 1971, in the JSC History Office.

Don E. Wilhelms, "To a Rocky Moon, A Geologist's History of Lunar Exploration", University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1993.