Like many countries, Iceland does not have a space program, although, Iceland has been intimately involved in space exploration by proxy. In 1965 and 1967 in preparation for latter Apollo Missions, NASA sent astronauts to the formally green areas of Iceland that are now barren. The US Space Program chose to send their space farers to areas on earth that resembled the surface of the moon so our future moonwalkers could practice trotting around on a similar environment. Nine of the twelve men that have danced on the lunar surface first danced upon the surface of Iceland.
The field trips were more so excursions to study geology and practice collecting rock samples. With the guidance of Icelandic and American geologists the exercises developed astronauts observational skills in identifying rudimentary geological structures. Some of the Apollo preparations have seemed rather silly to me retrospectively, although geological training was probably some of the most important training the men received. During the six surface excursions, 2,415 rock samples were collected – approximately weighing in at a total 842 pounds. Each sample was photographed prior to taking it from its location and placed inside sample bags; these sample bags were placed in a Special Environmental Sample Container before being brought to earth to prevent contamination. I’ve stared at several lunar samples through plexiglass at different science museums or NASA Visitor Centers- I don’t think it has the same impact as seeing it on the vast, desolate terrain of the moon. Likewise, not sure how much Icelandic terrain prepared our boys for their adventure – Iceland must be one of hell of enchanting place to do that.
To see some enchanting photos of space suits taken in the Icelandic landscape, check out Dominik Smialowski’s The Pilot’s Melancholy.