The Human Exploration of Space

June 7th, 2011

In the early 1970s, NASA was preparing to launch its fourth manned mission to the moon aboard the Apollo 15. The crew had been selected, with former fighter pilot David Scott named as commander. But NASA’s scientists couldn't agree on where the spacecraft should land. “Very soon, a young geologist wrote a memo,” Scott said at his Commencement forum on the role Brown’s alumni and professors played in bringing the project to fruition.

That geologist was Jim Head, then a consultant to NASA and now the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor at Brown. Head made the case for the Hadley Apenine region on the northern part of the moon’s near side as the ideal landing spot. “Slowly, but surely, all these people turned and twisted and pointed to Hadley,” Scott said. Head’s influence on the Apollo 15 mission was great enough that they even named a dip in the terrain for him—Head Valley.

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May/June 2011