Astronauts

In addition to being used for atomic weapon testing, the Nevada Test Site was also used for training the early Apollo Astronauts. For three days beginning on February 16, 1965, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Dick Gordon, Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott and Russell "Rusty" Schweikart trained for manned missions to the moon.

The three day mission was carried out at Sedan Crater, Buckboard Mesa and Schooner Crater. Its purpose was to train the men in how to conduct geological and geophysical studies while wearing suits similar to what they would be wearing on the moon. Each day had a different set of mission objectives based on the terrain presented at each location. And each mission was reviewed to ensure that proper training occurred to allow them to meet each objective while on the moon.

In addition to this historic first Nevada training for astronauts, two additional groups were trained in the area starting on February 24th and March 2nd of the same year. The powers that be felt this location offered the most realistic training opportunity available to the astronauts before they actually had to do it for real on the moon. In fact, the training was viewed as such a success - based on actual results that Armstrong and others achieved on the moon that they revisited training in that area of Nevada for future missions.

Training in the area of Schooner crater continued throughout the Apollo program and was an early test area for the moon rover used by the crew of Apollo 16.

This training was valuable for several reasons.

First, it gave the astronauts a chance to practice their missions in a realistic location. Each area was remote and barren just like the surface of the moon would be. Of course, there were not the risks that would be experienced on the moon but it was a very accurate simulation of the real thing.

Second, it was believed and later verified by the actual moon missions that the terrain around Schooner crater and Buckboard Mesa was very similar to locations on the moon that were visited. In fact, this highly realistic training allowed J.W. Young of Apollo 16 to recognize a secondary crater produced by ejects from South Ray crater and for H.H. Schmitt to accurately describe a 600-meter lunar crater in the Haemus Mountains west of Sulpicius Gallus by noting its similarities and differences when compared to one of the Buckboard Mesa craters.

Without this training, the moon missions would not have been nearly as successful as they were. They still would have been an exciting high point in history but the quantity and quality of the scientific portions of the missions would have been much poorer if the astronauts did not invest this training time in a desolate corner of Nevada.

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How do astronauts survive the extreme temperatures on the moon?

From what I understand it gets up to 260 degrees (more than hot enough to boil water) in the daylight and as cold as -400 degrees in the dark.

How do the astronauts avoid freezing or boiling?
Oh, and I'm not trying to convince anyone of a conspiracy theory...I really do just want to learn the answer.

When anyone asks what "the temperature" is, your very first question should be "the temperature of WHAT?" When "it" gets up to 250 F, you have to know precisely what "it" is. In this case, "it" is the rocks and dust of the lunar surface. That is, the figures cited are lunar surface temperatures.

What we commonly think of as "temperature" in our environment is air temperature. So when you say, "Today it was 75 F in Los Angeles," what you're saying is that the air was 75 F. The hot pavement in the parking lot may have been 150 F. And the concrete floor of the bottom level of a parking garage may be 60 F. That is, each item in an environment doesn't all come to the same temperature.

But more importantly, there's no air on the Moon. So air temperature is meaningless. The surface may get very hot, but that doesn't mean everything nearby will get that hot. How hot something gets in space depends largely on how much heat it absorbs from the sun. The lunar soil absorbs 85-90% of the solar energy (1300 watts max per square meter) that falls on it. So when the sun shines most directly on it it -- lunar noon -- it's sucking up a lot of heat.

A space suit, on the other hand, absorbs only about 15% of the solar energy that falls on it. And the outer layers are heavily insulated from the inner layers. Aluminum absorbs only about 5% of the solar heat. Things made of aluminum don't always heat up very much in space.

An astronaut's boots touch the surface directly and so absorb heat from it. But again, insulation is the key. You can walk very easily in ordinary shoes across asphalt that's 150 F or more without any ill effects. Your shoe soles get hot, but little of that heat conducts to your feet. Same with the astronauts. They had about an inch total of boot sole between them and the ground.

And the other key factor is that the Apollo missions landed in lunar morning. The sun was low in the sky. And just as surface temperatures on Earth take a while to warm up as the sun climbs, so do lunar surface temperatures. I computed once that the average lunar surface temperature during Apollo 11 was only about 30 F. The sun hadn't risen very far yet.

Even at lunar noon, the hot part only goes down less than a meter. Dig more than a few centimeters below the surface, and you've got very cold rocks and dust. The sunlight never penetrates there, and heat conducts very poorly through the jumble of rocks and dust.

Keep in mind that +250 F and -300 F are the extremes. Most of the surface temperatures measured on the surface will lie somewhere in the middle of those. And it takes a long time for any object to change between those extremes. It's not like you stand in full sun and then walk into the shadow of the spacecraft and your suit temperature immediately plummets to hundreds of degrees below zero. Heat transfer just doesn't work that fast.




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