Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Apollo 17

Lunar Geology Investigation

The fundamental objective of the lunar geology investigation experiment was to provide data in the vicinity of the landing site for use in the interpretation of the geologic history of the Moon. Apollo lunar landing missions offered the opportunity to correlate carefully collected samples with a variety of observational data on at least the upper portions of the mare basin filling and the lunar highlands, the two major geologic subdivisions of the Moon.

The primary data for the lunar geology investigation experiment came from photographs, crew observations, and returned lunar samples. Photographs taken according to specific procedures would supplement and illustrate crew comments, record details not discussed by the crew, provide a framework for debriefing, and record a wealth of lunar surface information that cannot be returned or adequately described by any other means.

In order to more fully sample the major geological features of the Apollo 17 landing site, various groupings of sampling tasks were combined and accomplished in concentrated areas. Thus, some trench samples, core tube samples and lunar environmental soil samples were collected in association with comprehensive samples.

Sampling and photographic techniques used to gather data in the landing site included:

  • Documented samples of lunar surface material which, prior to gathering, are photographed in color and stereo.
  • Rock, boulder and soil samples of rocks from deep layers, and soil samples from the regolith in the immediate area where the rocks are gathered.
  • Radial sampling of material on the rim of a fresh crater -- material that should be from the deepest strata.
  • Photopanoramas for building mosaics which will allow accurate control for landing site map correlation.
  • Drill core sample of the regolith (soil) which would further spell out the stratigraphy of the area sampled.
  • Small exploratory trenches, ranging from 8 to 20 cm (6 to 9.4 in.) in depth, to determine regolith particle size and small scale stratigraphy.
  • Vacuum-packed lunar environment soil and rock samples kept biologically pure for postflight gas, chemical and microphysical analysis.

Lunar Orbital Science

Service Module Sector 1 housed the Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) bay for this third Apollo J mission. Three new experiments were carried in the SIM bay on this mission:

  • Lunar Sounder
  • Infrared Scanning Radiometer
  • Far-ultraviolet Spectrometer

Lunar Sounder: Electromagnetic impulses beamed towards the lunar surface in the high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) bands would provide recorded data for developing a geological model of the lunar interior to a depth of 1.3 km (4280 ft.). In addition to stratigraphic, structural, tectonic and topographic data on regions of the Moon overflown by Apollo 17, the lunar sounder measured the ambient electromagnetic noise levels in the lunar environment at 5, 15, and 20 mHz and the occultation by the Moon of electromagnetic waves generated at the lunar surface by the electrical properties experiment transmitter.

Infrared Scanning Radiometer (ISR): The purpose of the ISR experiment was to measure lunar nighttime temperatures and cooling rates.

Far-ultraviolet Spectrometer: The far-UV spectrometer was used in an attempt to measure ultraviolet emissions from the scarce lunar atmosphere.

The far-UV spectrometer was mounted on the bottom shelf of the SIM bay and had an external baffle which limited stray light. Controls for activating and deactivating the experiment and for opening and closing a protective cover were located in the CM.

Also mounted in the SIM bay were the panoramic camera, mapping camera and laser altimeter. Description of these instruments can be found with Apollo 15.

From Apollo 17 Press Kit.