Before moon landing, astronauts learned geology in Arizona

This 1968 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center shows man-made craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Astronauts who walked on the moon used the site for training. (U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via AP)

Northern Arizona's fields of volcanic cinders and craters have been a training ground for every astronaut who has walked on the moon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they'd be the first to walk on the moon, they took crash courses in geology in northern Arizona.

They hiked the Grand Canyon and visited a nearby impact crater to learn about layers of rocks and taking samples.

Astronauts on later Apollo missions studied volcanic cinder fields east of Flagstaff where hundreds of craters were blown from the landscape intentionally to replicate the lunar surface and tested rovers.

Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff.

The city is joining others nationwide in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969, with tours, exhibits, talks and moon-themed food and art.

Apollo 17 astronaut Charlie Duke will be the keynote speaker at a Flagstaff science festival later this year.

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