Scientists and engineers view these lookalike places as training grounds for future expeditions. They are called analog sites.
By networking analog sites, early shakeout of equipment -- from space suits and land rovers to drills and robotic devices -- becomes viable and can be rated ready for flight. Habitat construction ideas and science-gathering tasks and procedures could be practiced. Even appraising the team spirit of individuals laboring in dangerous and remote environments is feasible.
That's the counsel of William Muehlberger of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas in Austin. He was principal investigator for geology for the Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the Moon, and has continued as an instructor and advisor to the astronauts on Earth observations from Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station.
"Once a crew had been assigned to a landing site, training became specific to that site," said Muehlberger said. "Field trips were operated as if the crew was on the Moon and Mission Control was in Houston. They became progressively more complex and as close to the actual traverses they would be doing on the Moon as was possible," he recounted.
In fact, those on the last three Apollo landings had enough exposure to rock hounding to be comparable to a typical Master's Degree candidate in geology.
"Even so,... [continues]
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