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50 years ago, astronauts trained in Sudbury, Ont., for the Apollo 16 moon mission –



Sudbury, once known as a moonscape, was the training site for crew members from two different NASA moon missions.

The northern Ontario city has worked hard to shed that moonscape image with extensive regreening efforts over multiple decades, but the Apollo connection remains.

In fact, a significant milestone is being marked this week: 50 years since the first training visit in 1971 by American astronauts who were part of the Apollo 16 mission (in April 1972). Astronauts also trained in Sudbury a year later, for Apollo 17, for the final moon landing in December 1972.

Michael Dence was one of the experts who guided crew on their training missions. Based in Ottawa, he has been a planetary scientist for 60 years, and is an internationally renowned expert on meteoric collisions, like the type that created the Sudbury basin.

Dence spent three days in Sudbury each year the astronauts visited to study impact structures (crater-like geologic structures of bedrock or sediment) and shatter cones (rare geological features known to form in bedrock beneath craters).

“The people at NASA in Houston decided that they should make Sudbury the routine for part of their training program,” he said.

Young hammers at rock in the Sudbury Basin in July 1971 while preparing for a trip to the moon. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

Apollo 16 crew members John Young and Charles Duke, and Apollo 17 crew members Harrison (Jack) Schmitt and Gene Cernan came to Sudbury in the respective years.

“We had about three days showing them around,” Dence said.

Astronauts got mock equipment

For the Apollo 16 training session, Dence said, NASA decided to make Sudbury a mock traverse on the moon for the July 7-9 training.

“They rigged up the astronauts, Young and Duke, with mock equipment. Some of it worked, particularly their cameras, but the rest was just backpacks and so on, which made it looked like they were traversing the moon.”

Dence said the training setup included microphones for the astronauts to describe what they were observing on the back side of a hill.  

“We watched them and helped guide them, and to some extent instructed them in what to look for.”

The training effort also included some of the NASA scientists who ended up in Houston during the Apollo 16 mission. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

The experience was different for the Apollo 17 training in the northern city because Schmitt was a trained geologist.

“We had a much more conventional geological type tour,” Dence said. “[The training] was done basically with talking to Schmitt and making use of his personal expertise in the process.”

Was Sudbury training helpful?

‘While we have this appellation of Sudbury being lunar-scape-type terrain, it really was rather a different experience when they got there,” said Dence.

“What we were doing in Sudbury was looking for places where the rock, the solid rock was showing, and we could look at the structures in the rock,” he said.

“When it came to the moon, no rock faces are visible anywhere because it’s all covered with what they call the soil, and fine dust and larger chunks which have been chucked around on the surface due to the bombardment that the moon has suffered for the last three billion years.

“Nowhere did they see bedrock on the moon.”

However, Dence said, with the samples the astronauts brought back from the moon, scientists were able to find distinctive signs for sharp effects also found in terrestrial craters, including Sudbury. 

The astronauts were in Sudbury about eight months before their respective Apollo takeoffs.

Dence said there was a heavy schedule during the training, with a focus on what the astronauts were doing, and yet the excursions seemed relaxing for the crew.

“They were great fun,” Dence said of working with the astronauts. “I think they were enjoying themselves and kidding around.

“They were dead serious in one respect, clearly on a mission,” he added.

Apollo legacy in northern Ontario

Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing mission for NASA, and its crew was the last to walk on the moon.

“They were the sort of wrap-up crews,” Dence said of the legacy it leaves.

“As far as Sudbury is concerned, this was just one of many excursions that have been held since, as we came to grips with the finer points of why Sudbury was an impact structure and what had happened to it,” he said.

“Much has happened at Sudbury, so it’s been a very complicated story to sort out, but nonetheless, it’s held its own as an impact structure, and we’ve learned a lot from it.”

This photo taken of the same area of Sudbury at different points in time shows how far the city’s landscape has come thanks to regreening efforts. (Laurentian University/Supplied)

‘Moonscape’ regreened over

As for the regreening across the Sudbury region since the astronauts were here, Dence is glad to see that improvement.

“I’ve been pleased to see Sudbury become much more, shall we say, cosmopolitan and diverse with several big science projects involved,” he said, referring to the underground Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLab), and its science, geological and mining projects.

“I think the covering of the areas where we went with the astronauts with new vegetation is one of the changes which is a plus, of course, from a visual point of view, but a bit of a minus if you wanted to see exactly what the astronauts looked at.”

According to Dence, there talk of retracing the steps the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 astronauts took during their training in Sudbury.

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Buck Moon rises over Oshawa harbour –




July’s orange- or yellow-tinted full moon – known as a Buck Moon – arrived at 10:36 p.m. Friday night.

It’s called the Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer are in full-growth mode at this time.

Indigenous people of Canada have several other names for the phenomenon, including Berry Moon (Anishinabe), Feather Moulting Moon (Cree), Salmon Moon, (Tlingit) and Raspberry Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe).

The full moon can be viewed in all its glory until tomorrow night.

Photo: Colin Ryan

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NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada



More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.

The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.

If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.

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SpaceX lands NASA launch contract for mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Euronews



By Steve Gorman

LOSANGELES – Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX was awarded a $178 million launch services contract for NASA‘s first mission focusing on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and whether it may host conditions suitable for life, the space agency said on Friday.

The Europa Clipper mission is due for blastoff in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp, from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said in a statement posted online.

The contract marked NASA‘s latest vote of confidence in the Hawthorne, California-based company, which has carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.

In April, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis program that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.

But that contract was suspended after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc, protested against the SpaceX selection.

The company’s partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.

NASA did not say what other companies may have bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract.

The probe is to conduct a detailed survey of the ice-covered Jovian satellite, which is a bit smaller than Earth’s moon and is a leading candidate in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system.

A bend in Europa’s magnetic field observed by NASA‘s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 appeared to have been caused by a geyser gushing through the moon’s frozen crust from a vast subsurface ocean, researchers concluded in 2018. Those findings supported other evidence of Europa plumes.

Among the Clipper mission’s objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of geologic activity, measure the thickness of its icy shell and determine the depth and salinity of its ocean, NASA said.

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