The vast and diverse landscape of the United States of America is not only the stuff an authentic Hollywood backdrop is made of. In parts, it also offers the essentials a training ground for missions of national and international gravity requires: a moonlike scenery with lots of rubble bearing geological secrets to be lifted, in preparation for lunar missions by NASA, for instance.
Yet, when it comes to „moonlike“, no place on earth is more suitable to simulate an extraterrestrial situation better than Iceland can thanks to its volcanic origin. In 1965 and 1967, two groups of Apollo astronauts accompanied by geologists travelled to the destination for geological studies in preparation for their journey to the Moon. Among the 1967-group was Neil Armstrong, whose Apollo-11-mission was the component vital for the US Space Race to be won over the USSR. It made John F. Kennedy’s challenge, pronounced in 1961, come true: to “land a man on the Moon, and return him safely to the Earth”, before the end of the decade. On the 20th of July, 1969 at 20:17 UTC, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first human ever to leave his footprints on the powdery lunar surface.
„That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind“
Terrestrial „Moon“ revisited by Apollo astronauts
Five decades after the first field training took place in 1965, the Exploration Museum in Húsavík celebrated its 50th anniversary in July 2015 in the presence of Armstrong family and three former astronauts: Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9) and Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7). They were joined by NASA astrogeologist Dr. Jim Rice. Neil Armstrong’s grandchildren unveiled a monument outside the museum, honouring the 32 astronauts who trained in Iceland in 1965 and 1967, seven of whom later walked on the Moon. www.explorationmuseum.com
Astronaut experience MICE style
The Destination Management Company Nordic Visitor is a versed partner when it comes to organising events or incentives in Iceland. And they are blessed with a contagious sense of humour next to the talent of putting their cause into memorable phrases:
„Geologically speaking, Iceland is one of the world’s youngest countries. Sure, our adolescent terrain throws the occasional tantrum (in the form of a volcanic eruption ), but we’ve learned to love these growing pains: over 87 per cent of our buildings and pools are heated by low-cost geothermal energy.
Great things happen when groups visit Iceland. For example, the first humans to set foot on the moon set their feet here first. (And it took less than one orbit to fly here!) In the 1960s, Apollo 11 astronauts trained for their fateful mission in the lunar landscapes of Iceland’s volcanic highlands.
Only one per cent of Iceland is covered by forests, which means those astronauts didn’t have to worry about running into a tree while doing the moonwalk. Besides, trees would just obscure the magnificent views of the colourful mountains, mossy lava fields, vast glaciers and hot springs.
… but Iceland certainly serves for more than just acting as a lunar substitute.
Please also read our article https://goodmeetings.com/2014/04/iceland-an-adventurous-sheep-gathering-experience