Scientific Input to Site Selection

Early consideration of lunar exploration missions by the scientific community focused more sharply on what should be done on the moon than on where it would be done. The 1962 Iowa summer study paid particular attention to the scientific qualifications and training of the astronauts; the 1965 Woods Hole study formulated a list of 15 important scientific questions to be addressed by lunar exploration, which would define the experiments to be conducted. [see Chapter 3] [see Appendix 3] Neither conference expressed any preference for landing sites, although both pointed out the need to study highlands as well as maria. The Woods Hole study report concluded that really effective geophysical and geochemical studies would require investigations at several locations up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) apart.13

NASA had apparently made it quite clear to its outside scientific advisors that science would have to take its results from wherever it could get them - at least on the first few missions. The point was implicitly acknowledged at the Falmouth conference on lunar exploration immediately following the 1965 Woods Hole study. All of the earth-science study groups at Falmouth stressed the need to supplement manned exploration with detailed study by unmanned lunar-orbiting satellites to secure comprehensive scientific coverage of the lunar surface.14 To a considerable degree this emphasis on unmanned studies was simply a recognition of the relative cost-effectiveness of the two modes of exploration, but it was also a recognition of the operational limitations of Apollo and the resultant restrictions on landing sites. Even looking ahead to longer stays on the moon, the groups urged development of surface vehicles and flying vehicles to increase the effective range of exploration but did not mention any need to extend the limited Apollo landing zone. It was assumed that operations could eventually be extended to higher latitudes and more difficult sites, such as highlands and craters - possibilities included in NASA's plans for extending Apollo,15 which the Falmouth participants used as the basis for their recommendations.

The fact was that in mid-1965 it was simply too early for scientific priorities to be included in the selection of Apollo landing sites. Better information on the lunar surface was needed, and better understanding of the operational constraints on landing sites, before the scientific merit of any particular site could have any effect on the choice.

13. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, A Review of Space Research, report of the summer study conducted under the auspices of the Space Science Board at the State University of Iowa, June 17-Aug. 10, 1962, NAS-NRC Publication 1079 (Washington, 1962); idem, Space Research: Directions for the Future, report of a study by the Space Science Board, Woods Hole, Mass., 1965, NAS-NRC Publication 1402 (Washington, 1966).

14. NASA 1965 Summer Conference on Lunar Exploration and Science, Falmouth, Massachusetts, July 19- 31, 1965, NASA SP-88 (Washington, 1965), passim.

15. House, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1966 NASA Authorization, hearings on H.R. 3730, 89/1, pt. 2, pp. 278-85.

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