BEFORE GOING TO THE MOON, ASTRONAUTS PRACTICED ON ICELAND

Nothing about space exploration is left to chance. NASA plans for everything. And so when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon, he’d already practiced bounding across the lunar surface here on Earth at a “terrestrial analogue site” in Iceland.

Photography: Matthew Broadhead | Author: Charlie Locke

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Arnarfell Peak

The island nation’s basaltic rock is a close approximation of the moon rocks Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected, and so Iceland was an ideal place for training exercises. Thirty-two astronauts received geology field training on the island in the late 1960s in what NASA called planetary analog campaigns.

Forty-odd years later, Matthew Broadhead visited many of those training sites. His sweeping photos in Heimr capture the landscape, facilities, and paraphernalia that helped NASA bring the moon to the earth. “People know about the Apollo missions, but not about the training that got them to the point where they could actually do this,” says Broadhead.

Planetary analog campaigns allow NASA to test equipment and procedures—and those who will execute them—in extreme environments that model those astronauts will experience in space. Even now, crews preparing for a future visit to Mars spend nearly a year in a 1,200-foot dome on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa.

For the Apollo missions, NASA subjected astronauts to geology field training at planetary analogues in Mexico, Alaska, and much of the American west. NASA made two trips to Iceland, where astronauts spent several days collecting geologic samples. Broadhead spent two weeks retracing their steps along shorelines and craters carrying a Hasselblad 500C/M and a Wista 45DX. He also photographed things aren’t directly associated with the mission but bring space to mind, like satellite dishes and the Exploration Museum in Húsavík, which housed memorabilia from the training.

The haunting images capture not only the history but the mythology of venturing into the unknown. “Earth is the realm of humans, but we’re trying to transcend that, and go to the world of others,” Broadhead says. “As humanity evolves, we’re doing these extraordinary things that wouldn’t have ever seemed possible before.” Like going to the moon. And perhaps even Mars.

A rocket in Keflavik

The Krafla Geothermal Station

The view west from Hverfjall

A geodesic dome at the base of Krafla Caldera

An exhibit of the landing site

A satellite dish

An ‘Earthrise’ NASA print hand signed by William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell

A geological feature at Sandvík, a volcanic beach

The Seltún geothermal area

Astronaut Jack Schmitt's footprints in concrete