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Preparing for the Moon and Mars: Then and Now

A series of photographs was recently discovered at the Johnson Space Center in Houston; the NASA photos feature astronauts and backup crews training in Hawaii for Apollo missions 13 through 17 in the 1960s and ’70s. Hawaii’s terrain and volcanic soil make for a suitable simulation of the lunar surface, and robots for missions to the Moon and Mars are tested on the Big Island to this day.

Apollo training in Hawaii

Apollo training in Hawaii

Apollo training in Hawaii

Here on the mainland, photographer Jim Urquhart captured activities at the Mars Desert Research Station, a facility in the desert of southern Utah, built and operated by a space advocacy group called the Mars Society. The group uses the natural geography for experts and students to study science applications that could take place on the Red Planet, the site also includes a  greenhouse and an observatory.

Mars training in Utah

Mars training in Utah

Both sets of photos are otherworldly, old-fashioned and futuristic at the same time. And while the scenarios may read as advanced role play, perhaps less sophisticated than you might imagine, the research conducted in Hawaii and Utah is undoubtedly valuable for the future of space exploration.

Mars training in Utah

Mars training in Utah

The collection of Apollo photos is currently on display at the Hilo headquarters of The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.

You can see his striking photographs and read a detailed account of Jim Urquhart’s experience at the Mars Desert Research Station at the Reuters Photographers’ Blog.

Photos: NASA, Jim Urquhart