LUNAR FIELD GEOLOGY – A VIRTUAL FIELD EXERCISE FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
We developed this exercise to give introductory geology students field experience in one of the most impractical field locations of all – the lunar surface. Using Google Moon (http://earth.google.com/moon), images from the Apollo missions, and materials from NASA’s Lunar Petrographic Educational Thin Section Set and Sample Disc, it allows students to follow the same traverses as the astronauts while learning about the geologic processes that formed the Moon and shaped its surface. It also encourages students to use information they learned earlier in the semester in different geologic contexts to synthesize new conclusions.
Students explore the traverses of three different Apollo missions, observe samples collected on those missions at different scales, identify minerals and rock types, and draw conclusions about geologic processes based on their observations. Google Moon provides a unique interactive environment for the exploration of the Moon, with extensive annotations of lunar landing sites, traverses of the lunar rovers, video, and immersive high-resolution panoramas that place the student on the lunar surface. Images from NASA’s Apollo mission archives illustrate sample collection equipment and procedures. Images from the sample disc and petrographic thin sections are combined with images of the same samples on the lunar surface before they were collected, allowing students to observe each rock in situ, in hand sample, and in thin section.
Because NASA policies restrict access to the lunar disc and petrographic thin sections, digital images of the samples were acquired for this exercise. This not only allows introductory geoscience students access to the lunar material, but also makes the exercise portable and accessible to any computer-equipped classroom.