The 50th Anniversary of the Genesis Rock

Guest “How about that, geology fans?” by David Middleton

50 Years Ago: Apollo 15 on the Moon at Hadley-Apennine

David R. Scott, Commander
James B. Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot
Alfred M. Worden, Command Module Pilot

Backup Crew
Richard F. Gordon Jr., Commander
Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot
Vance DeVoe Brand, Command Module Pilot


August 1, 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the “Genesis Rock”…

Genesis Rock

Published: September 22, 2017
On August 1, 1971, Apollo 15 mission commander David R. Scott relayed exciting news to Mission Control and the scientists in the back room.

“Guess what we just found,” Scott said. “Guess what we just found! I think we found what we came for.”

That sample, nicknamed the Genesis Rock, sample number 15415, was an anorthosite, a piece of the moon’s primordial crust. Geologists, hoping to learn more about the moon and its origins, selected the Hadley-Apennines landing site for precisely this reason. While not the oldest lunar sample brought back from the moon, geologists at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now known as the Johnson Space Center) later concluded that this rock was about 4 billion years old.

Apollo 15 was the first of three J missions, often called the true scientific missions to the moon.

These missions featured the Lunar Rover equipped with a television camera, a redesigned Lunar Module (LM) that allowed the crews to stay for extended periods on the moon and long duration backpacks for the moonwalkers allowing astronauts to spend more time exploring the lunar surface. Engineers also made changes to the Service Module, filling it with remote sensing instruments designed to document the moon’s surface. During the crew’s three spacewalks, Scott and James B. Irwin spent almost nineteen hours exploring the moon and covered 17.5 miles of lunar terrain in the lunar rover.

To prepare for this historic flight, the crew trained for months. An important part of that training included geology field trips with geologists from universities and the center as well as the U.S. Geological Survey. Apollo 15, 16 and 17 crews dedicated much more time to these exercises than their colleagues on the earlier Apollo lunar landings.

Apollo 15 astronauts traveled to a different geological site each month, which amounted to about 18 trips, compared to five or six for the previous flight of Apollo 14. Scott and Irwin practiced in terrain similar to the conditions they would find on the moon and within the limitations they would face on the surface. Gary E. Lofgren helped train the Apollo 15 crew and now serves as the lunar curator.

“You’d draw a circle around how far they could go,” Lofgren explained. “So this is the area that they can move around in. They couldn’t get farther from the LM than a certain distance … The amount of area that they could traverse was pretty small. We would pick out spots, and then we would tell them to collect the kinds of samples that were obvious to collect at that site: collect a sample of the soil and a sample of the rocks.”

During these traverses the crew gained skills in identifying rocks, describing terrain, documenting samples as well as proper sampling techniques. Sometimes they test drove Grover, a one-G rover.

CapCom Joseph P. Allen and scientists also gained valuable experience as they sat in a separate simulated control room and science support room. Scott and Irwin communicated by radio to Allen, as they would during their flight. Following the simulation, instructors who walked along with the two men pointed out what they had overlooked in their traverse.

In preparation for their landing in the Hadley-Apennine region, the instructors along with Scott and Irwin, visited volcanic sites like Hawaii and areas “where they would see the kinds of rocks we expected to find as part of that primitive crust,” Lofgren noted.

These sites included the San Gabriel Mountains, Ely, Minnesota, the Rio Grande Gorge and the San Juan Mountains. Their training paid off in spades. Leon T. Silver, an Apollo 15 instructor from Cal Tech, called the mission the “apotheosis of all the things we’d been planning to do… it was the coming together of developing the technical capabilities, preparing men to be explorers as well as many, many other things.”

He and others were confident that they would find a piece of the ancient crust. Why did these scientists place such faith in two former test pilots?

“Well,” he explained, “that’s because the human intention, well educated, well prepared, can squeeze things out, you understand?”

For more information on this significant flight, read some selected oral history interview excerpts available on the JSC History Portal:

Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott and the Genesis rock. Image Credit: NASA

Here’s the communication transcript of the discovery of the Genesis Rock (CDR = Commander Dave Scott, LMP = Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin):

CDR Okay. Now let’s go down and get that unusual one. Look at the little crater here, and the one that’s facing us. There is this little white corner to the thing. What do you think the best way to sample it would be?

LMP I think probably – could we break off a piece of the clod underneath it? Or I guess you could probably lift that top fragment off.

CDR Yes. Let me try. Yes. Sure can. And it’s a white clast, and it’s about – oh, boy!

LMP Look at the – glint. Almost see twinning in there.

CDR Guess what we found? Guess what we just found?

LMP I think we found what we came for.

CDR Crystal rock, huh? Yes, sir. You better believe it. Look at the plag in there. Almost all plag – as a matter of fact – oh, boy, I think we might – ourselves something close to anorthosite, because its crystalline and there’s just a bunch – it’s just almost all plag. What a beaut.

LMP That really is a beauty. And, there’s another one down there.

CDR Yes. We’ll get some of these. – – – No, let’s don’t mix them – let’s make this a special one. I’ll zip it up. Make this bag 196, a special bag. Our first one. Don’t lose your bag now, Jim. O, boy!


“Plag” refers to plagioclase, the dominant mineralogy of anorthosite. The Genesis Rock was sitting on top of a mound of glass-matrix breccia and/or regolith clods (AKA The Pedestal), almost as if it had been intentionally placed there for the Apollo 15 astronauts to find.

The Genesis Rock was sitting on top of the mound (The Pedestal), just to the let of the center of this photo. 15435 LPI.

Transearth Coast Press Conference

CC Q2: Near Spur Crater, you found what may be “Genesis Rock”, the oldest yet collected on the Moon. Tell us more about it.

CDR: Well, I think the one you’re referring to was what we felt was almost entirely plagioclase or perhaps anorthosite. And it was a small fragment sitting on top of a dark brown larger fragment, almost like on a pedestal. And Jim and I were quite impressed with the fact that it was there, apparently waiting for us. And we hoped to find more of it, and, I’m sure, had we more time at that site, that we would have been able to find more. But I think this one rock, if it is, in fact, the beginning of the Moon, will tell us an awful lot. And we’ll leave it up to the experts to analyze it when we get back, to determine its origin.

Lunar and Planetary Institute

How’s that for luck? Without the field geology training they had received from geologists like Lee Silver and Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt, the luck wouldn’t have mattered; because they wouldn’t have known what to look for.

As it turned out, the Genesis Rock wasn’t as old as they had initially assumed; but it was a very significant find.

Ferroan Anorthosite
269.4 grams

Lunar anorthosite 15415 was found perched on a clod of soil breccia (15435) on the rim of Spur Crater (Wilshire et al. 1972). Spur Crater is about 50 meters above the mare surface on the slope of Hadley Delta.
It is subdued in nature and apparently old. The samples collected from Spur Crater had a range of exposure ages indicating that the material excavated may have been pre-exposed and/or may include material added from other sources after the Spur event (Arvidson et al. 1975).

During a Transearth Coast press conference, 15415 was called “Genesis Rock” and the name has stuck in spite of the fact that it may not be the oldest rock from the Moon. The astronauts correctly recognized that it was coarse-grained, made almost entirely of plagioclase and probably from the lunar highlands (figure 1). Thin sections also show that it is an anorthosite made almost entirely of coarse-grained plagioclase (figure 2) and that it is only mildly shocked. Age dating proved difficult, but an age of about 4 b.y. was determined by the Ar plateau method. However, the very low initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio attests to it great antiquity and the lack of meteoritical siderophiles proves its pristinity (lack of contamination by impacts).

In summary, 15415 is a unique lunar sample, in that, it is a pristine coarse-grained, unbrecciated anorthosite made up of mostly (98%) calcic plagioclase (An96). For a rock to have this much plagioclase, the rock must have formed by a process of plagioclase accumulation. It is generally understood that the original crust of the moon formed by plagioclase floatation from a magma ocean (see Warren 1985). But the exact connection of 15415 to this process is unclear, because Ar dating of 15415 showed it to be too young to have formed from the original lunar magma ocean.

Ryder (1985) provided a comprehensive review of all aspects of 15415. The section on 15435 provides a
picture of the sample on the moon.

Lunar and Planetary Institute
Photo of Genesis rock before processing. Cube is 1 inch. Image Credit: NASA

Anyone who is interested in the mineralogical, petrological and geochemical analyses of the lunar rock and regolith samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts, as well as the Russian Luna missions, can access them here: Lunar Samples.

For those with less interest in igneous petrology, and just interested in how cool field geology is, I highly recommend the HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, episode 10, Galileo Was Right. For a detailed review of the field and aerial geology training see Science Training History of the Apollo Astronauts by William C. Phinney. The aerial geology training of the Command Module Pilots was particularly important.

One of the significant results of this training was Worden’s orbital observations during the actual mission of what he suggested were cinder fields in the Littrow area. This became a major factor in the selection of Taurus Littrow as the landing site for Apollo 17.

In the Technical Debriefing following the mission Worden indicated that “I thought that the training that I received in orbital geology was better than I had anticipated. I was very well prepared when I got there. The only comment that I’d have is that most of that detailed training we had came late in the game. It had to be sandwiched in with other things at the Cape…It would be helpful if we got into the detailed part of that a little bit earlier in the training cycle” (p. 17-10).

Science Training History of the Apollo Astronauts, page 146

The astronauts particularly enjoyed the field trips.

The attitude of the crew is reflected in the comments of Commander Dave Scott: “Another vital focus of our training was the intensive preparation for the geological investigations we would be carrying out. This meant field trips. I loved them. I loved to be outdoors. It was a chance to get away from the simulators and other hardware for three days at a time, a chance to have a few beers in the evening after a hard day in the field.”

Science Training History of the Apollo Astronauts, page 115

Field geology rocks!

Now, on to the rille…

Hadley Rille

“Fendell” refers to Ed Fendell, who remotely operated the LRV camera from mission control in Houston. “Allen” refers to CapCom Joseph Allen. Joe was the astronaut at mission control tasked with verbal communications with the Apollo 15 crew, he subsequently flew on space shuttle missions STS-5 and STS-51_A. “Jones” refers to Eric M. Jones, author of the transcript and his running commentary with Dave Scott.

165:22:40 Scott: And, I have the 500 out.

165:22:42 Allen: And look at that rille.

[Fendell is currently looking toward the northwest.]

165:22:47 Scott: How about that?

165:22:48 Allen: How about that, geology fans?

[North of the Rover, Jim has just finished a pan consisting of frames AS15-82- 11110 to 11127.]

[Frame 11110 shows the far wall of Hadley Rille with Hill 305 in the background.]

[Frame 11113 shows the view to the north and the slope of the mare surface toward the rille. ]

[Frame 11116 shows the view toward Mt. Hadley, which is partially obscured by the local horizon. Note that the lineations on the mountain are still faintly visible.]

[Frame 11117 shows the view toward the Swann Range with numerous, partially-buried boulders in the foreground.]

[In frame 11120 we see Dave at his side of the Rover, with his seat raised as he gets the 500-mm camera.]

[Frame 11121 is an excellent view south along the rille. Dave is reaching under his Rover seat to get the 500-mm camera. Note that the front section of the left front fender seems to be missing. {See the discussion at 148:55:33 and a Summary provided by Ron Creel ( 1.3 Mb PDF ) of the fender extension losses that occurred on all three Rover missions.} Note, also, the appearance of Silver Spur at the upper right and compare with Dave’s 500-mm image of Silver Spur, AS15-82-11250 taken during the SEVA at a similar viewing angle but a much lower sun elevation. See, also, a discussion of the appearance of Silver Spur in the Apollo 15 Preliminary Science Report.]

[Frame 11122 is an excellent picture toward the south, showing the bend of the rille near Elbow Crater. See a labeled detail. David Harland has combined high-resolution scans of 11121 and 11122 in a portrait of Dave at work.]

[Frame 11123 is centered on St. George Crater.]

[Frames 11124 and 11125 show the west wall of Hadley Rille. In 11125, note the foreground boulder one fiducial right and below center with horizontal structure.]

[Frame 11126 is centered on that boulder.]

[Frame 11127 ends Jim’s pan.]

[Jim crosses the TV field-of-view headed for the Rover.]

165:22:50 Scott: I can see from up at the top of the rille down, there’s debris all the way. And, it looks like some outcrops directly at about 11 o’clock to the Sun line. It looks like a layer. About 5 percent of the rille wall (height), with a vertical face on it. And, within the vertical face, I can see other small lineations, horizontal about maybe 10 percent of that unit.

[Dave’s 500-mm photo AS15-89- 12115 shows one of these outcrop just below the central fiducial. David Harland’s assembly of 500-mm frames AS15-89-12016 to 12042 shows the entire area. Jim goes to the back of the Rover to get his scoop.]

165:23:26 Scott: And that unit outcrops (at various places) along the rille. It’s about 10 percent from the top, and it’s somewhat irregular; but it looks to be a continuous layer. It may be portions of (mare basalt) flows, but they’re generally at about the 10-percent level. I can see another one at about 12 o’clock to the Sun line, which is somewhat thinner, maybe 5 percent of the total depth of the rille. However, it has a more-well-defined internal layering of about 10 percent of its thickness. I can see maybe 10 very well-defined layers within that unit.

[The rille is about 350 meters deep in the area of Stations 9 and 10, so 10 percent of the depth corresponds to about 35 meters.]

Video Clip  2 min 39 sec ( 0.7 Mb RealVideo or 24 Mb MPG )

165:24:12 Allen: Beautiful, Dave, beautiful.

[During Dave’s last transmission, Jim moved north of the Rover to start sampling. Fendell reaches the clockwise pan limit, he is looking virtually up-Sun over the right corner (left, from our perspective) of Jim’s seat.]

[Dave and Jim spent quite a bit of time in the field learning how to do verbal descriptions. Here, Dave was primed to look for layering in the far wall because the layering would tell the geologists back home something about how the mare basalts were deposited.]

[Scott – “You probably noticed that I use percent rather than feet or some other finite measure. A lot of times, when we were doing field work, you really didn’t know what the feet were. Unless you know what the distance is, you can’t tell the feet. And (with training) it becomes very comfortable to do things in percent, because you can do it very quickly. And it’s pretty accurate because, knowing how deep the rille is, you can calculate the feet later. Whoever taught us the percent thing made it very easy to describe because you don’t have to go through ‘well, let’s see, it’s a little over a mile over there…’. That’s a lot of mental conversion.”]

[Jones – “With lots of room for error. Whereas, with this, bang, you’re there.”]

[Dave then mentioned that, before the flight, they had thought about how to use the 500 at this Station. See cuff checklist page CDR-27.]

[Scott – “The technique with the 500 was to get a horizontal sweep and a vertical sweep. From the place where Jim did the pan. That was the whole idea.”]

[Jones – “And the best examples of that are the Hadley pictures you took from Station 6, the 500s you took here, and the similar ones you took at Station 10.”]

165:24:14 Scott: As I go down the rille, below this upper layer at 10 percent, there seems to be mostly debris in the order of large angular fragments, maybe the largest being like 5 percent of the total depth of the rille.

[Frame AS15-89- 12117 shows the largest talus block in the Station 9a photos.]

165:24:38 Scott: And then they gradually break on down to very small fragments and a talus slope.

[Fendell reverses direction and starts panning counter-clockwise. After a short while, Jim returns to the Rover and Fendell gives us a look at Jim’s SCB while Jim does something at his seat.]

165:24:43 Scott: I see no significant collection of talus at any level. It seems to be fairly uniformly distributed in patches all the way down, to as far as I can see, to the bottom of the rille. In looking on to my 12:30 to 1 o’clock on up the rille…And, I guess we’ll get a little closer, when we get down to sampling it down there. Why, it looks very much the same. Outcrops of this one unit, irregularly spaced, discontinuous, but along the general 10 percent from the top line; with the talus sliding down into the bottom of the rille. I see no differences in color. However, the vertical section of the unit, which is exposed, looks to be somewhat lighter in gray. The blocks, which have fallen down into the talus, seem to have a more tan or different tone of gray color to them. Sort of like the fresh vertical section was more recently exposed. Let me let you digest that for a minute, and let me take a bunch of 500’s. I’ll get you the vertical and the horizontal and, boy, there’s lots of things to shoot at over there. (Pause) Hey, Jim, where’d you take the pan? Right over here?

165:26:17 Irwin: Where there’s a little circle (of disturbed soil) on the ground.


“How about that, geology fans?”

The Genesis Rock was found near Spur Crater near Hadley Rille. Apollo 15: Interplanetary Mountaineers, NASA

Lunar rilles are long, narrow depressions on the Moon’s surface. They can be linear or sinuous and often resemble dried river beds. They are most likely the result of collapsed lava tubes. Maybe the Artemis astronauts can help figure out how they formed.

Jul 26, 2021
Apollo to Artemis: Drilling on the Moon

By Leejay Lockhart
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Fifty years ago, Apollo 15 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, sending Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin on the first of three Apollo “J” missions. These missions gave astronauts the opportunity to explore the Moon for longer periods using upgraded and more plentiful scientific instruments than ever before. Apollo 15 was the first mission where astronauts used the Apollo Lunar Surface Drill (ALSD) and the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).

Scott and Irwin would land on the Moon and use the ALSD at the site where they set up several scientific instruments during the nearly 67 hours they were on the surface of the Moon. The tool was a rotary-percussive drill that used a combined motion that hammered a rotating drill bit into the surface to make a hole. The overall purpose of gathering core samples was part of NASA’s lunar geology studies to learn more about the composition of the Moon and discover more about its history by looking at different kinds of rocks, including some from below the surface.

Now, NASA is going back to the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis missions and has a new drill headed to the lunar surface as a commercially delivered payload via the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT) is key to locating ice and other resources on the Moon.

“Honeybee Robotics designed the TRIDENT drill for NASA to sample lunar regolith,” said Amy Eichenbaum, the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) deputy project manager. “TRIDENT will help understand the physical properties of the lunar regolith while also allowing analysis of the resources present in samples taken from various depths.”

TRIDENT is also a rotary-percussive drill, but one major difference between it and its Apollo counterpart is that TRIDENT does not need astronauts to operate it manually. Honeybee Robotics originally partnered with NASA through the Small Business Innovation Research program, a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to engage in federal research.

Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) will be the first in-situ resource utilization demonstration on the Moon. For the first time, NASA will robotically sample and analyze for ice from below the surface. PRIME-1 will use TRIDENT to drill in a single location at a site with a high likelihood of having water – whether in liquid or ice form. It will drill down about 3 feet (1 meter) below the surface, each time bringing up samples that NASA will analyze with a scientific instrument – the Mass Spectrometer observing lunar operations (MSolo).

“MSolo will measure water ice and other volatiles released from the sample brought to the surface by the TRIDENT drill,” said Dr. Janine Captain, the principal investigator for MSolo. “These measurements will help us start to understand the distribution of resources on the lunar surface, a key to enabling a long-term presence on the Moon.”

Apollo 15 landed near the Hadley Rille, a long, deep channel-like gorge in the Moon’s surface, which was at the base of the Apennines Mountains to the north of the Moon’s equator. PRIME-1’s destination is the Moon’s South Pole – new territory far from all the Apollo landing sites – a location very interesting because NASA has previously detected water there from space. However, gathering more accurate data requires PRIME-1, like ALSD, to land and drill into the surface to examine what is there.

What PRIME-1 discovers will help to update resource models for where explorers are most likely to find water on the Moon. About a year after the PRIME-1 mission, NASA will send an exploratory rover – Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER – to the surface. VIPER is NASA’s first mobile robotic mission to the Moon, and will carry a TRIDENT drill and scientific instruments that enable it to directly analyze water ice on the surface and subsurface of the Moon at varying depths and temperature conditions. VIPER will explore multiple sites on the lunar South Pole for about 100 days.

PRIME-1 and VIPER will build upon the legacy of Apollo 15 by using drills and rovers, allowing NASA the chance to look below the surface and detect what is there. Much like Apollo 15, NASA is preparing to send new capabilities to the Moon that will enable people to stay there for longer than ever before, because learning how to find and use water is a key to living and working on the Moon and other deep space destinations.

“The Apollo missions first introduced the concept of drilling to provide subsurface understanding of a foreign world,” said Dan Andrews, VIPER Project Manager. “PRIME-1 and VIPER will expand the state of the art as we look to a future of sustainable exploration and learning how to live off the land.”


Maybe NASA needs to hire the world’s best deep-core drillers!

Apollo 15 Crew

Mission Commander (CDR) David R. Scott is 89 years old and lives in San Antonio, Texas. Apollo 15 was his second Apollo mission. He previously flew on Gemini 8 and Apollo 9.
Command Module Pilot (CMP) Alfred M. Worden. Col. Worden passed away last year at the age of 88. Apollo 15 was his only spaceflight mission.
Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) James B. Irwin. Col. Irwin died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of 61. Apollo 15 was also his only space flight mission.

Apollo 15 Landing Site

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Carlo, Monte
August 4, 2021 2:36 pm

Great article, Dave!

There is a new hoax (at least to me) out there that the “Moon rocks” contained petrified wood — Gah!

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 5:12 pm

I still can’t get rille photos right in my mind, they always look like worms. I know its an optical illusion, but it is frustrating. Sometimes turning a photo upside-down will cure crater views, but not always. It must have to do with the low sun angles.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 4, 2021 5:21 pm

Yes, it can be very tricky. I think the rille in the article photo curves up to the top and left…the sunlight’s coming from the bottom and a hill on the left casting a dark shadow on that side which makes it look like the rille splits or has a branch…but I don’t think that’s the case. You can see the edge of these mountains or hills where the 72M mark is.

Interesting to see the boulders that have rolled down into the rille and also some craters in the rille walls testifying to their anquitity. I think you can see a bit of the banding they refer to at the top of the rille at the extreme right of the photo.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 5:42 pm

Yes, it can be a problem. But as Carlo mentions, turning lunar photos upside down can often help a lot…for me anyway. The craters can just pop out of the ground or equally equally disappear. It’s a bit like the optical trick image of the old woman and young girl you often see…the brain seems to flip from one to the other! I think someone posted that image recently here on WUWT…might even have been you Dave.

Turning the crater photos is a good trick for us geologists. Another you probably have is the ability to see stereo photos correctly without needing a stereoscope. However, sometimes the brain gets it wrong here too and all the hills become depressions and the rivers run along mountain ridges!

John Hultquist
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 9:36 pm

My eye/brain combo actively prevents binocular fusion.
(See: Horror fusionis )
Sometimes, even with all the tricks, I can’t make these photos work.
However, because others have the inversion problem, my eye/brain thing may have nothing to do with it. Interesting.

50th — seems like only yesterday.
It would be fun to know how many readers were aware of this at the time. Would need to be about 12 to 15 ?? I was 27.

Thanks David. Great post.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 10:17 am

I was nine, also playing little league. IBM Dodgers, League champs!

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  John Hultquist
August 5, 2021 9:18 pm

G’Day John,

“It would be fun to know how many readers were aware of this at the time.”

In ’71? – turned 30. Married in ’69 (we’re still together). From ’63 to ’69 – working oil exploration – lived/worked in five different countries, and spent six months on a survey ship working the Java Sea. Came to the US in ’70. A science fiction fan from way back.

Our first ‘major’ (except for a VW bug) purchase in the US – a 19″ B&W Zenith TV. We watched.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 12:31 am

This is tricky at the best of times but some of these images are collages of different images from different passes at different times of day. The lighting is inverted between adjacent sections which really messes with your brain.

I don’t go with the collapsed lava tube hypothesis, way too uniform. My initial impression was tectonic movement like earthquake spreading but I noted that the opposing banks did not match properly and showed erosion and accumulation patterns on opposite sides which suggested lateral flow as seen in rivers or coast lines on Earth.

I clicked on your rilles link. and got to this one:


On the floor of this rille is another smaller rille. The meandering form is hard to see as anything other than a “river”. This is a lot like parts of the Colombia river where today’s river is etched into the bed of much broader plain which was the bed of the river when flow was orders of magnitude larger.

Thanks for this link on rilles, it’s fascinating.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 6:38 am

I don’t know whether it is possible to get any altitude data for any of these rille sites but I’d like to know if you could hypothesis the flow direction on this one from the curvature of the “banks”:

With the alternating peaks on one side and eroded bends opposite it looks like this indicates some kind of fluid flow from top to bottom.

Also the “rille within a rille” shot, the smaller scale feature is so close to a slow meandering river like the Amazon, you can’t avoid it. There is even loop which has but itself off and created an island. The analogy to terrestrial water flow patterns is compelling.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 7:48 am

As we geologists all know, there are a lot of landform features which look similar but are the result of different physical processes. I also think in terms of sedimentary processes as a first order judgement (I guess 40+ years of sed process evaluation leaves some strong neural pathways 🙂 )

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Middleton
August 6, 2021 11:39 am

“A few years ago a young geologist with ExxonMobil demonstrated that it was both.”

That’s interesting.

Interested Observer
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 5, 2021 12:34 am

The real optical illusion is believing the rilles are collapsed lava tubes when there is no rubble on the floors of the rilles. That theory is about as credible as believing the rilles were made by giant worms. Maybe the worms ate the rubble.

Reply to  Interested Observer
August 5, 2021 2:31 am

Yes, that suggestion seems laughable to me. It really does not explain what is there. It’s like just saying “lave tubes” is an explantion in itself without having to explain what features a lava tube would have and how this explains the feature seen and is not refuted by any of the features seen.

Lava is always seen on Earth as an accumulative process, even if there are tubes in the deposited rock. That is really not consistent with what is seen here.

Vallis Schröteri seems so obviously the result of some kind of liquid flow, they should be asking what kind of liquid it could be.

Since it seems to start or end ( maybe that can established from altimetery ) in a hole or vent , it could be acidic water eroding the rock. There were clearly two epocs of activity, one with massively lower flow rates.

Reply to  Greg
August 5, 2021 2:35 am

Whatever the liquid was, it seems to have evaporated relatively quickly, rather than spreading out into a delta.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 6:23 am

That would be interesting. I did not realise there was this kind of interesting feature on the moon. I thought is was all mares, impact craters and the occasional mystery object suitable blurred out 😉

There seems to be some significant geological ( if that’s the right word ) history to be dug out of these rilles.

John Hultquist
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 10:42 am

Current news speaks of “Clays, Not Water, Are Likely Source of Mars ‘Lakes’ ”
I have to read these reports; have not done so yet.
Troubled by “clay.”

August 4, 2021 2:46 pm

Sorry, reading the headline, my first thoughts went this way:

David G Baird
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 4, 2021 3:51 pm

I don’t mind that it did. Enjoyed this as much as David’s article. Great time to be alive the Apollo moon missions and the IMHO the best Genesis.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 7:50 am

PG gets my vote although PC ultimately had a better run with Genesis.

August 4, 2021 2:47 pm

Great info, thanks!

August 4, 2021 2:52 pm

I used to be glued to the TV when this stuff was in the news. And then the stupid hippies and draft dodgers got more attention that real discoveries.

Thanks for the memories, David Middleton

Abolition Man
August 4, 2021 3:02 pm

Most excellent article, David!
It brings back fond memories of the days when American science and technology could accomplish wonders; now we aren’t sure which bathroom to use!
Just as the “climate emergency” is disproven by the facts and realities of geology, most of the other cultural Marxist claptrap is disproven by math, physics and biology! That’s why the ignorati must try and denigrate them as “wascist!”
In the end though it is obvious:

Reply to  Abolition Man
August 4, 2021 9:45 pm

now we aren’t sure which bathroom to use!

Does it matter?

pHil R
Reply to  RickWill
August 5, 2021 9:05 am

Just because it doesn’t matter to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to others.

Or probably more appropriate to his point….LOOK, SQUIRREL!

H. D. Hoese
August 4, 2021 3:39 pm

Geology is a great subject, real history necessary, attempts to destroy it will take a lot, would be destroyers probably don’t know it’s history anyway.

Michael S. Kelly
August 4, 2021 3:47 pm

Outstanding post, Mr. Middleton! Space has been my life and career, starting with watching Alan Shepard’s flight on 5 May, 1961.

You really brought things back, beautifully. Thank you.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 4:44 pm

That is the most astonishing biography I’ve ever read, in terms of an entire lifetime of achievement. I hope everyone on this thread reads it. Captain Middleton set the kind of example that truly made America great. Thank you for the link.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 8:42 am

The space program, and Star Trek for me.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 5:04 pm

There is also the famous clip of Alan Shepard dropping a rock and a feather simultaneously during Apollo 14 EVA.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 5:17 pm

Ah yes, got them backwards.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 6:21 pm

Not really, don’t overlook the word “ballistic” — it means the particles are moving in a vacuum without any air resistance.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 12:59 am

Any response anyone gave would not matter because you are ignorant of any science but have gone into loony conspiracy mode, where any logical argument becomes irrelevant to you because you KNOW it’s all fake.

You ignorantly assume that 1/6g means a particle will travel 6x further, ie you are implicitly assuming a linear relationship. You probably don’t know what that means and don’t realise that is what you are doing, so you have no reason or justification for doing so. It’s just OBVIOUS, right ?

No, acceleration and distance is not linear, it is meters / sec / sec , it’s second order or cubic, not linear.

Now I’m sure I’ve lost you already and that does not matter in any case because you refuse science, maths and logic, that’s not your trip. Life is much more exciting in your little world were you are one of the special people who has worked out it’s a massive fraud and you have to convince the rest of the world.

Realising you were mistaken would destroy your world, so you will refuse to listen to anything anyone tells you.

We completely understand.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 1:09 am

The time a ball is in the air depends on its vertical velocity and on the square root of gravitational acceleration ( it’s not linear ). In 1/6g flight time is sqrt(6) = 2.4 times longer.

How far it goes depends on the horizontal component of velocity and how long it’s in the air: 2.4 times further.

Reply to  Greg
August 6, 2021 1:53 am

Your error is assuming that initial velocities for Moon-curve and earth-curves are same. The paper explicitly says that the initial velocity for the earth-curve is chosen as to reproduce the moon-curve. So, without drag the earth-curve would exactly overlie the moon-curve.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 4, 2021 11:01 pm

Initial velocity of the particles on the moon curve and the earth curve is not the same. After Eq(5), the authors say that
V_0^E=V_0^M (g_E/g_M)^(1/2).

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 6:18 am

How do you explain the footage of the Apollo moonwalkers bouncing meters above the surface, despite wearing about 100Kg of gear? How could that have been accomplished on Earth with 1 g gravitational pull?

Reply to  Graemethecat
August 6, 2021 4:12 am

The photo in your link clearly shows the astronaut in a sling to support his weight on Earth. Where are the slings in the Moon photos and videos? How did NASA reduce the Earth’s gravitation so that the dislodged dust fell with 1/6g?

J Mac
August 4, 2021 4:08 pm

Thanks David! Another long time fan of space exploration here. It led to my first job as a metallurgical engineer with a newly minted masters degree at McDonnell Douglas Astrospace! What a kick!

August 4, 2021 4:17 pm

In the late 70s or early 80s there was an aluminium case of moon-rock samples from the Apollo missions that was loaned out to university geology departments. You could pick up a thin section of a piece of the moon and look at it through a microscope. Beautiful unweathered minerals, like no terrestrial sample. To be able to hold a piece of the moon in my hand and examine it was probably the greatest privilege of my time as a student.

Reply to  sonofametman
August 5, 2021 8:44 am

The closest I’ve ever come to a moon rock was looking at one on exhibit, from perhaps 18 inches away.

Mark Kaiser
August 4, 2021 4:37 pm

Thank for the article David. It’s a nice change of pace from the climate change articles. I have to admit as I read it I was trying to think of an “Armageddon” joke along the way. And then, there it was!
Maybe NASA needs to hire the world’s best deep-core drillers!

What an awful movie. And yet I watch it every time it comes on.

Rud Istvan
August 4, 2021 4:46 pm

Hey Dave, a great post. Were I to do College over again, would have majored in geology. Have been fascinated for decades. My Grandfather oil field geologist helped open both Bakersfield and Montana’s part of the Bakken, pre frack. I caught his ‘rock fever’ after grad school.
Then justified a big (350 cc) on/off road Honda 350 CX motorcycle to my then new wife to visit Maine pegmatites. Tourmalines, spodumenes, phlogopyte (pink lithium mica). While spending afterwards near six years in Munich, used same bike to visit many Alpine mountain locations. Have epidote thumbnails and near emeralds from the two Austrian Halnbachtal famous locations. We hiked up to the ’gestate’ that evening, and then hiked to the near summit Roman emerald mine next morning.
Once was aimed at very high location on the grossBrenner massif in July, and had to turn around since it was snowing heavily. Motorcycles (even street/dirt bikes) do not perform well in snow.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 4, 2021 9:52 pm

“Were I to do College over again, would have majored in geology.”

I’ve thought about this. I grew up in the tree-covered hills of western Pennsylvania.
One, you can’t see very far, and two, coal cuts were your choice for looking at rocks.
Exciting rocks, other than coal, had to be imported.
Now I live in the west where one can see for miles and interesting rocks are everywhere.
That might make a difference.

Joel O'Bryan
August 4, 2021 5:10 pm

I have suspicions that Apollo-15 astronaut Irwin’s heart arrhythmia he developed during the A-15 transfer-return mission phase was related to the elevated galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) both he and Scott were exposed to while in the thinly skinned Lunar Lander and in their lunar suits during EVAs. He was already noted to be susceptible to slight arrhythmia during very strenuous exercise testing the Apollo astronauts went through on medical-physical exams.

A GCR induced high energy particle cascade through the cardiac branch vagus nerve could cause irreparable damage (in medical terms: diminished vagal tone), and thus exacerbating an existing condition of already low vagal tone, and that then shortened his life considerably with regular non-clinically evident arrhythmia episodes that led to his sudden episodes of cardiac failures (3, the last one taking his life) that were misdiagnosed as “heart attacks” to the point that in 1973, just 2 years after the A-15 mission, he had his first attack and surgeons performed what was likely an unnecessary triple bypass on his heart. There is already much on-going research into this area of (space-)Radiation Induced Cardio-Vascular Disease (RICVD). But there is a lot to be learned from the interaction of the nervous system and the cardiac rythm regulation circuits. But we know the complex electrical signalling of central nervous system is acutely sensitive to high energy radiation like GCRs.

Irwin was the youngest Apollo moon walking astronauts to die at the age of 61.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 8:47 am

The problem is the low sample size. Also this sample is not exactly representative of the over all population.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 5, 2021 2:44 am

Well I guess it’s worth dying at 61 if you got to walk on the moon. He certainly had a much fuller life than most people on this planet.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 5, 2021 3:16 am

Anyone know what the Sun was doing during these missions? Was there a flare, or more GCR’s getting through? Did the missions measure ground levels?

Carlo, Monte
August 4, 2021 6:12 pm

A cure I highly recommend for Moon Hoax Illness is taking in the Apollo 18 museum at the Cape in Florida. All the hardware for the entire mission is inside, from the five main rocket engines of the Saturn V first stage to the escape rocket tower above the command module. The lunar module is off in a separate display with a rover and includes a small rock carefully encased in Plexiglas. All restored to Smithsonian standards, it is absolutely incredible.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 4, 2021 8:08 pm

And this means it was all done indoors on a movie set?

Richard Page
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 5, 2021 12:48 am

I have a theory, but you might not like it. The entire thing is only a mess when you look at it as if it was happening on Earth – not unusual, all of our experience is of Earth. If you accept that people who have been to the moon have experience of the conditions there then you can accept that they know more about those conditions than any of the armchair astronauts who have never been. Accept a certain amount of expert opinion.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 5, 2021 1:23 am

Yes, it is a mess. What the hell are those images , what is “india”, who did it, what are the units?

Since no units are shown, I would just point that 62m is roughly 200ft.

That’s what happens when you use messy undocumented sources with no units. You end up with messy inconsistent results. That’s why we invented science.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Greg
August 5, 2021 6:50 am

There is that dude from Cambridge U years ago who figured all this motion stuff out, and invented the necessary math at the same time.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 6, 2021 9:35 am

The rover wheel was a spring, as the weight lifted off of an individual section of the wheel, it would snap back to it’s original shape. That would add to the velocity of any dust coming off of the wheel.

Gary Pearse
August 4, 2021 9:51 pm

Wow! David, an amazing article that does great service to the 50th anniversary of remarkable scientific and engineering endeavours.

“a chance to have a few beers in the evening after a hard day in the field.” (Dave R. Scott)

Yes, I take my hat off to the teachers who made these guys into credible field geologists and to the astronauts who learned so well. Using the word “plag” (pronounce ‘plage’ as in plagioclase) was a nice professional touch.

David, I think you already have enough for a good start on a popular book of geology. You write in a very engaging style.

I mapped geology for the Manitoba survey, (called Mines Branch in the 1950s and early 60s) and for the Geological Survey of Nigeria in the mid 1960s. Went into mining exploration and development thereafter. I never miss any of your articles at WUWT and I can see people of all walks of life follow your geology and become “geology fans”

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 7:19 am

One more hoax story—Mars. If NASA faked Apollo then they obviously also faked anything that went to the Red Planet. In 1976 I was an undergrad double-E student and got to take a tour of the Martin Marietta facility at Waterton Canyon CO. This was after the success of the Viking landers, which MM happened to have designed and built. They took us into one lab where Viking 3 was located, the fully operational spare that didn’t fly.

One of the engineers demonstrated the robotic arm, told it to move out and use the shovel to simulate a sample soil collection. While by today’s standards this might seem trivial, in 1976 it was a huge accomplishment. Keep in mind the electronics very probably used the most radiation resistant integrated circuits available, which were RCA metal-gate CMOS in ceramic packages***. Viking also had the first linear array CCD (charge-coupled device) imagers to be flown.

To fake all this with the film photography available back then just wasn’t possible. And the tedious year-after-year accusations is intellectual robbery of everything the early NASA/aerospace engineers accomplished.

***(also how/why the Voyager deep space probes were able to operate for decades.)

Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 8:52 am

I’ve brought this up with various conspiracy nuts that I’ve had the misfortune of trying to talk to.
They just claim that the scientists who took these measurements were in on the scam.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  MarkW
August 5, 2021 10:22 am

Nothing can dissuade them.

Reply to  MarkW
August 5, 2021 10:22 am

You make the naive and unfounded assumption that such people are ameanable to reason.

I bet you still think that data can convince warmists that world is not exploding around us as we speak.

John Hultquist
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 11:07 am

 Nice chart. I’m the proud owner of a zillion rocks from the little red triangle (CRBG) part. I had not realized we were such an outlier.
I’m near the western edge of the Grande Ronde flow, now part of the Yakima Fold belt; Cascade Crest 40 miles west– Ponderosa Pine country. I call the place the “Rock ‘n Ponderosa”.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 5, 2021 11:39 am

“To fake all this with the film photography available back then just wasn’t possible”

Well, OBVIOUSLY they used the advanced alien technology from the Roswell incident to fake it all.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  TonyG
August 5, 2021 1:06 pm

Duh, how could I have missed this?

Pamela Matlack-Klein
August 5, 2021 2:16 am

Back in 1984 I was able to borrow some lunar rock thin sections from NASA. It was great to just have them in our hands knowing they came from the moon. Sadly, NASA demanded we return them all too quickly.

pHil R
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
August 5, 2021 9:20 am

Back around 1984 I was making my own thin sections, but of boring terrestrial rocks. Never got to look at any moon rocks (except in museum) or see any thin sections.

pHil R
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 10:22 am

Yup. My Master’s thesis was on diabase dikes in Virginia. Lots of variation.

pHil R
Reply to  David Middleton
August 5, 2021 7:34 pm

i got a piece of the olivine cumulate layer from the Palisades sill in NJ. Didn’t know until I got it under a microscope.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  pHil R
August 5, 2021 2:07 pm

No kidding? My farm in Appomattox has lots of diabase boulders weathered out of the soil. They were my favorite feature in the pastures and I finally gathered some of them together to make a large garden feature. They are one of the few things I miss from the farm.

pHil R
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
August 5, 2021 5:53 pm

My field area was near Farmville, not too far from Appomattox (boy, was that a long time ago).

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  pHil R
August 6, 2021 3:02 am

Our farm is on the Farmville side of the County and that dike system runs right through it and on to Prince Edward County. It was the first geologic formation that caught my eye when settling in Appomattox County. Those boulders were impressive until I saw the Penha boulders here in Portugal. Now I have boulders the size of houses!

August 5, 2021 8:41 am

So six moon landings were faked.
Thousands of pounds of moon rocks were faked.
The tens of thousands of scientists who worked on the moon rocks were in on the scam.
The thousands of people who worked at NASA were in on the scam.
The photos sent back from lunar orbit showing the landing sites, including by the Chinese, were all faked.
In the 50 years since, not a single one of these 10’s of thousands of people who were in on the scam have talked.

All of this is disproven, just because you think the films don’t look right.

Any group capable of making up such an elaborate scam, would be able to create a film that “looks right” to you.

Reply to  MarkW
August 6, 2021 9:36 am

In other words you got nothing.

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