Monday | October 16, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Rare photos capture Apollo astronauts training on the Big Island

Before they landed on the moon, they walked the Big Island’s volcanic landscape.

Astronauts in NASA’s Apollo program visited the island in the 1960s and early ’70s as they learned to take rock samples and practiced driving lunar buggies over the moon-like fields of lava rock.

In recognition of Hawaii’s role in sending men to the moon, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems has published on its website 10 photographs of the astronauts training on the isle.

They include a geologic map of the island NASA used in 1964, as well as images of astronauts from the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions training with some of their lunar gear. Captions were added digitally.

The pictures have also been turned into a 10-foot-long mural at the PISCES office in Hilo.

The photographs are part of a collection of about 30 PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso said he received after going through negatives at the Johnson Space Center in Houston last December. He said it’s likely these images have never been previously published.

Kelso, a former NASA flight director, said he began looking for the photographs after seeing a mural with pictures of Apollo astronauts training at the Kennedy Space Center.

“I thought that was so amazing,” he said. “I wanted to do the same thing.”

Kelso said he received the images on a CD in February.

The pictures were taken from several locations on the island.

One image shows James Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, using lunar hand tools on the Kapoho lava field. The picture is dated December 1969.

Another shows the Apollo 15 crew walking along a steep ridge in December 1970. The caption refers to the area as “Apollo Valley.”

Kelso said the valley is likely at the 11,000-foot elevation on Mauna Kea.

To view the photographs, visit or

Email Tom Callis at tcallis


Rules for posting comments