Updated: Oct 2, 2018
Think you’ve got the right stuff to make it in space? Maybe give it a go here on Earth first. That was the thinking of the Astrology Research Program, a task force made up of representatives from NASA and the US Geological Survey, who chose to recreate the surface of the moon right here in Arizona.
It started in 1967. About 12 miles from Flagstaff Arizona, the Astrology Research Program began creating crater fields in an area known as Cinder Lake. The first field, made up of 143 man-made craters, was created with explosives and designed to replicate the landing zone of the Apollo 15 crew’s mission to the Sea of Tranquility. There they trained them on how to identify age and type of geological formations they would encounter. They even built slopes into the sides in order to simulate the lunar modules that would take astronauts back and forth from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon.
The second field was built as a literal testing ground for the astronauts. Each crater was carefully made to exact specifications so that the astronauts could test out their knowledge and skills under supervision. As the Apollo 15 mission was dedicated to the study of lunar geology this sort of knowledge assessment was crucial to the team’s success.
The site was last used for lunar simulation in 1972, but it is still available for tourists and history buffs today. In the intervening years, the site has been used to recreate lunar situations for film production companies. Even Disney has filmed scenes there!
Even if you don’t want to drive our to the crater fields, Arizona is full of otherworldly scenes. Venturing out into the desert can feel like you’ve stepped onto a whole new planet. From the rock formations you can climb to the rivers you can raft, and even the dirt tracks you can speed along in ATVs or motorbikes, there are plenty of ways to see the beauty that the Arizona landscape has to offer. There’s no short supply of things to do in Arizona.