Experiment Operations During Apollo EVAs

Experiment: Lunar Geology - Tools

See also Lunar Geology - General and Soil Mechanics
Acronym: Several for individual tools

The rake was developed to obtain a greater number of small rock samples than could be obtained using the tongs (AS-17-134-20425). Note the sample bags attached to the PLSS of the crewman. Since he could not reach his own sample bags, each crewman had to place samples in the other persons sample bags. See also the rake and scoop mounted on pallet at the rear of the LRV.

This view from Apollo 12 shows the hand tool carrier and a core tube, attached to the extension handle, being emplaced into the soil (AS-12-49-7243). Numbered sample bags are held in the hand tool carrier. Additional core tubes are visible in the carrier. See also a view of the gnomon which provided a reference to vertical, scale, sun orientation, slope, and grey scale.

PI/Engineer: See lunar geology - general
Other Contacts: JSC/Solar System Exploration Division

Apollo Flight Nos.: 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17
Apollo Exp't No. See Exp'ts S 059 and S 200

Discipline: lunar geosciences

Weight: See Reference Catalog, JSC-23454 & below
Dimensions: See Reference Catalog, JSC-23454

Manufacturer: JSC, unless noted

The tools used in geological field work are well documented in various photos, reports, and the Reference Catalog.

Unloading from the LM:
No problems reported removing tools from bays within LM.

Transporting by foot or MET:
A hand tool carrier was used to carry the tools on A-12. It was also carried, with its tools, on the MET for A-14.

Loading/unloading tools/exp'ts on LRV:
The tools could fit in a rack on the back of the LRV. See Reference Catalog.

Site selection: NA

Deploying experiment: NA

Check-out of experiment: NA

Operation of experiment:
Operation of the tools was, for the most part, nominal. The hammer became very hard to grip against the pressurized glove, however. A larger diameter handle would have alleviated the problem. The other tools did not seen to present this problem since they were not used as frequently nor for as long a time.

Repairs to experiment:
A vise on the A-15 LRV, which was to be used to separate drill core stems segments, was designed incorrectly on Earth. Its jaws, similar to a pipe wrench, could only be used to tighten the cores, not loosen them. The Earth trainer had been installed backwards and so worked properly, but the flight tool was installed as per the drawings, and cost Scott and Irwin both time and aggravation.

Recovery/take-down of experiment: NA

Stowing experiment for return:
Tools were left at the landing site. Two Apollo Lunar Sample return containers (ALSRC) per flight were used to return the sample bags. These were to maintain the samples in lunar vacuum for their return, but 4 of the 12 had a substantial leak. On A-15, it was very hard to close at least one of these containers because a bag was caught in the rear hinge. This caused problems in stowing the SRC in the LM, the pins would not engage, and they finally taped it in place for ascent. Extra sample bags were exposed to the cabin and Earth's atmosphere.

Loading/unloading samples on LRV:
Sample collection bags could be attached to the tool carrier rack at the back of the LRV.

Loading of exp't/samples into the LM: See geology - general.

Stowing of package once in the LM: NA. The tools were left on the moon.

Sampling operations - soil, rocks:
The scoop was used to sample soil. Tongs were available to grab larger rock samples. Very large boulders were sampled using the chisel end of the hammer to break off a piece.

The long handle scoop was used for digging trenches.

The rake was developed as a way to obtain many rock samples of > 1 cm easily.

The Apollo Lunar Surface Drill (ALSD), manufactured by Martin Marietta, was considered by some as part of the ALSEP package, although it was also used to obtain deep core samples. It had a rotary-percussive action. It was 13.4 kg, total, and 57.7 x 24.4 x 17.8 cm, not including the drill string and caps. It took 5 to 15 minutes to drill a hole, depending on the material. The core stems came in sections. After the first 2 sections were assembled and drilled in so that ~15 cm remained above the surface, the drill was removed from the core with a wrench and the 2nd pair of core stems were assembled and attached. Then the drill was attached to this new section and the drilling continued until the 3rd and 4th pairs had to be attached in like fashion. Drilling the 2nd 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. For the A-15 deep core, 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. Its removal took an extra 15 minutes of EVA time and cause a severe shoulder sprain in Scott. This is why the jack was developed for removal of drill stems on the last two flights. Also, the core stems were redesigned to allow clearing the dense soil from the hole by operation at constant depth to bring soil to the surface. 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 rack was supplied which held the bore stems for the HFE off the ground and made them easy to reach for a suited crewman. The core stems for the deep core were stored on the hand tool carrier on the back of the LRV

The core tubes were redesigned twice from the early missions to make them easier to drive into the soil. The bevel in the early design compacted the soil and made it difficult to drive into the soil. See tool catalogue. The hammer used to pound the core tubes had a small striking area and its side was used to drive the tubes because of the inaccuracy of arm motion in the EMU.

Navigating/recognizing landmarks: See LRV.

Were there any hazards in the experiment?
i.e. hazardous materials (explosive, radioactive, toxic), sharp objects, high voltages, massive, bulky, tripping hazards, temperatures?
The tools could be considered hazardous in a number of ways. The drill was capable of high torque and could have damaged any cords or hoses that got entangled in it. Glove protectors were available while operating it, but these restrained hand movements even further. The hammer had a "chisel" end which could have damaged a suit, and any pieces of rock that flew off during sampling may have scratched a visor. The thin metallic coating on the hammer fractured and flew off during normal hammering operations on A-12.

Was lighting a problem?
Generally not. Some samples were to be taken from permanently shadowed areas, however.

Were the results visible to the crew? Yes.

Would you recommend any design changes?
Changes were made as the missions progressed and experience developed. Extension handles got longer. The LRV sampler was developed for A-17 to get samples from areas between stations.

Were any special tools required?
The Apollo Lunar Hand Tools (ALHT) were considered by some as part of the ALSEP package, but they were mostly used in the geological field work. The materials from which the tools were made were limited to special choices so as not to contaminate the samples. These included teflon, stainless steel, and aluminum. See the reference Catalogue. Total weights of geological tools per mission were as follows: A-11, 22.9 kg; A-12, 29.2 kg; A-14, 34.1 kg; A-15, 50.3 kg; A-16, 53.0 kg; A-17, 45.7 kg.

Was the orientation of the experiment (i.e. horizontal/vertical) important? Difficult? NA

Was the experiment successful? See geology - general.

Were there related experiments on other flights?
Samples of the moon were also obtained by 3 robotic Lunakhod flights.

Where was it stored during flight?
On some flights, the tools were packed with the ALSEP.

Were there any problems photographing the experiment?
A protocol of photodocumentation was developed to document samples. Tools were often used for scale.

What pre-launch and cruise req'ts were there?
power, thermal, late access, early recovery? None.

What was different between training and actual EVA?
Scott (A-15) commented that it seemed more difficult to screw the sections of the drill stems together during EVA than it was in training. Duke (A-16) and Cernan (A-17) concurred, and suggested a small work bench would have helped.

What problems were due to the suit rather than the experiment? No comments by crew.

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


Catalog of Apollo Lunar Surface Geological Sampling Tools and Containers, JSC-23454.

Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package - Apollo 17 ALSEP (Array E) Familiarization Course - Handout for class of 1 September 1972, in JSC History Office

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, p 1423 - 1432, 1990.

Apollo Program Summary Report, JCS-09423, section 3.2.7, Geology and Soil Mechanics Equipment, April, 1975

Apollo 15 Technical Crew Debriefing, 14 August 1971, in JSC History Office.