Earth Notes: Jack Schmitt

Jul 17, 2019

The moon may be an average of 238,900 miles away, but Flagstaff has a much closer connection to the lunar body. That’s because a scientist who lived here decades ago was recruited by NASA to become an astronaut in the Apollo space program.

U.S. Geological Survey

This week we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Everyone who walked on the moon first trained in Flagstaff. We’re hearing stories from the people who worked to make it happen. NASA estimates it took more than four hundred thousand people to get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the moon. Baerbel and Ivo Lucchitta were two of them. A husband-and-wife team in Flagstaff, Ivo taught geology to astronauts at places like Sunset Crater and Meteor Crater, while Baerbel made detailed maps of the moon. As young scientists they’d studied the geology of Earth, but were swept up into the Space Age after hearing the unmistakable sound of Sputnik, the first satellite in space.

U.S. Geological Survey

This Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In many ways that “one giant leap” onto the Moon started off in one small town in Arizona. Every astronaut who walked on the moon first came to Flagstaff to train, in its lunar-like landscape of volcanoes and craters. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports on Flagstaff’s yearlong celebration of its role in the historic moon landing.


Astronomers have found more than four thousand “extrasolar planets” beyond our solar system. Now a team including scientists at Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory have confirmed the discovery of the youngest known extrasolar planet. It’s a scorching-hot world many times larger than Jupiter. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Lowell astronomer Lisa Prato about how this finding informs our understanding of how planets form.

Harun Mehmedinovic/SKYGLOW Project

Tomorrow the Grand Canyon National Park will celebrate its new status as an International Dark Sky Park. The certification honors the park’s efforts to retrofit or replace thousands of inefficient light fixtures over the past three years. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with park ranger Rader Lane about why Grand Canyon is joining this international effort to combat light pollution.