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NASA astronauts to re-visit training grounds in Iceland's central highlands

By Staff

  • ALIEN LANDSCAPES NASA chose the Central Highlands of Iceland as a training ground to prepare astronauts for the landscapes they might encounter on the moon. Among the places visited was Askja in the Dyngjufjöll, pictured above. Photo/Vilhelm

Three astronauts who participated in the Apollo-program will be coming to Iceland in July to re-visit training grounds for the moon landing.

The group includes three members of the Apollo-program, astronauts Russell “Rusty” Schweickart (Apollo 9), Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17). Along with the three astronauts the group includes NASA geologist Jim Rice, a member of the Mars Exploration Rover Project, and the descendants of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon.

When Astronauts roamed the Central Highlands
NASA sent two training missions to Iceland in 1965 and 1967. The missions, which were part of the Apollo program, were intended to prepare the astronauts with the harsh and alien landscapes and geological formations they might encounter at the moon. The missions visited the mountain Askja in the Dyngjuföll mountain range, in the Central Highlands, just north of Vatnajökull glacier.

Read more: The central highlands north of Vatnajökull: Burnt by volcanoes and stripped naked by ferocious winters

All three visited Iceland during training exercises for the trip to the moon. At the time they visited Askja in the Dyngjuföll mountain range, as it was believed the landscape and geological formations there were similar to what could be found at the moon.

The last astronaut to walk on the moon
The trip is organized by Örlýgur Hnefill Örlýgsson, who manages The Exploration Museum at Húsavík in North Eastern Iceland. The museum is dedicated to the history of human exploration, from the early explorers and the Viking explorers, to the exploration of space. The main exhibition includes photographs and items relating to the Apollo training exercises in Iceland in 1965 and 1967. Askja mountain is located to the south of Húsavík.

Örlýgur told local newspaper Morgunblaðið that he had been in contact with astronauts who participated in the training missions in Iceland for several years and that two of the astronauts had already re-visited Iceland, William "Bill" Anders (Apollo 8) and Owen Garriott who flew on the Skylab 3 and Spacelab 1 missions. Among those visiting this year is Jack Schmitt, who was an astronaut aboard Apollo 17, is the last man to walk on the moon, in 1972.

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