Iceland – The Original Astronaut Training Ground

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Space Nation Navigator

The summer of 1967. Peace, love, The Beatles, the first space era.

Iceland. The tiny, farflung island nation, populated by Viking descendants, known today for jaw-dropping natural beauty seen in millions photos on Instagram.

So what’s the connection? Well, Iceland can make an indelible claim to be one of the original astronaut training grounds.

Apollo Astronauts Trained in Iceland

Before the Apollo mission to the Moon, before those seismic small steps and giant leaps, Neil Armstrong and 30 other astronauts underwent field training in Iceland. In total, 9 of the 12 astronauts who would set foot on the Moon trained in Iceland. The first mission took place in 1965 and the second in 1967.

Why did these pioneers visit Iceland? Simple answer: Iceland is one of the most Moon-like terrains on Earth, making it the ideal training ground for off-world expeditions. These types of preparation missions even have their own name – planetary analog missions.

The most Moon-like place on Earth

What did the Apollo astronauts do in Iceland? Mainly they studied rocks.

Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, the most recent living person to walk on the Moon, explained further:

“The exposure of Apollo astronauts to the geology of Iceland contributed greatly to the experience of Apollo astronauts as they prepared for lunar exploration and sampling.”

Neil Armstrong put it like this:

“We went to Hawaii, to Iceland, great places to focus on volcanic rocks. The assumption was that on the Moon we would encounter tectonic formations principally, or remnants of volcanic and tectonic lava flows, that sort of thing. I was very tempted to sneak a piece of limestone up there with us on Apollo 11 and bring it back as a sample.”

So, that was the 1960s, the first space era. You can see what a crucial role Iceland played. But what about now, the new space era?

Space Nation Starts the New Space Era – in Iceland

What better place to celebrate this new chapter in humanity’s journey to the stars than in one of the birthplaces of the first space era? That’s why Space Nation will organize our very first astronaut training experience in Iceland on May 14-18.

We’ve invited a few special guests to train with us, and you can follow the training experience as it unfolds on social media following the hashtag #SpaceNationIceland and the content in Space Nation Navigator. Stay tuned for more as our attendees do challenges similar to the game play in the Space Nation Navigator app – but in real life.

Start Your Own Journey

At Space Nation, we believe that the heroes of this new era won’t be highly trained scientists or aviators – they will be regular people, from all around the world and from every possible background and nationality. People just like you.

Think of it this way – every giant leap needs a small step to make it happen. This is kind of the role that Iceland played in the first mission to the Moon. And this is also how we see Space Nation Navigator, the first ever astronaut training app. Sure, there’s a long way to go from playing games and quizzes on your smartphone to actually becoming the first Space Nation Astronaut and traveling to space, but it all starts with that small step of downloading the app.

Download the Space Nation Navigator astronaut training app

Read more about the topic:
Fifty years after their first visit to Iceland, some of the Apollo astronauts returned to Iceland in 2015, on a new trip organized by The Exploration Museum in Húsavík, Northern Iceland.

Our visit to Iceland is done in partnership with The Exploration Museum in Húsavík, Iceland, where you can learn more about Iceland’s fascinating exploration history. All of the Apollo astronaut photos are being used here by the courtesy of The Exploration Museum.

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