Los Angeles Times

How NASA's Apollo program turned military test pilots into lunar geologists

Step through the Cinder Lake Crater Field roughly 12 miles outside Flagstaff, Ariz., and you might encounter a white crystal-filled rock that has absolutely no business being there.

The chunks of anorthosite weren't deposited there by nature - they were trucked in from the mountains around Pasadena. And the craters were carved not by meteors, but by fertilizer and dynamite.

Before the first man landed on the moon, NASA dispatched the Apollo astronauts to this volcanic field to search for these and other faux moon rocks.

The scavenger hunt had great purpose: Anorthosite would likely be among the oldest lunar fragments, geologists believed, and they wanted to make sure the moonwalkers could identify the valuable specimens to bring home.

"We drilled that into the

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