50 miles southwest of Las Cruces lies a maar volcanic crater with ties to NASA’s Apollo Space Program. A maar crater is one that is broad and shallow, typically filled by a lake, formed by an eruption with little lava. Kilbourne Hole and it’s neighbor Hunt’s Hole were used by NASA to train Apollo Astronauts. NASA used the volcanic fields during exercises on how to observe pertinent geological features and collect samples that Astronauts later used during missions.
On April 8th-9th, 1969 Apollo 12 Astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad and Alan L. Bean and support crewman Edward Gibson trained at Kilbourne Hole ahead of their successful lunar landing in November 1969. Apollo 12’s Richard Gordon, 14’s Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 15’s David Scott and James Irwin, Apollo 16’s John Young and Charlie Duke and Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and New Mexico’s Harrison “Jack” Schmitt all trained at Kilbourne Hole ahead of their missions.
Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, is the only professional geologist to have walked on the moon. He also holds the record as the youngest and the last astronaut to have set foot on the moon. Before his flight, he trained other Apollo astronauts on field geology.
Las Cruces Space Festival partners Southwest Expeditions will be offering a tour to Kilbourne Hole on April 9th to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Space Program. Dr Emily Johnson, Assistant Professor at the Department of Geological Sciences at New Mexico State University, will be providing a talk on the geological significance of Kilbourne Hole. There will also be an opportunity to participate in a performance art piece by ‘Hand Made Light’ artist Tim Fitzpatrick that will marry the history of space exploration, geology, science and modern art.
For more information on the tour, visit swexpeditions.com, call 1-877- 808- 6877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.