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the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to advance the country’s space exploration efforts. Hoping to quickly catch up to the Soviets, NASA pushed to send the first person into space, but alas, the Soviets also won this battle with Yuri Gagarin making the trip April 12, 1961. Alan Shepard followed suit May 5. Although his flight was only 15 minutes, it inspired President Kennedy and his advisors to think big, and on May 25, Kennedy declared to Congress, “I believe that this country should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” With this, the game was on. While NASA worked on developing the technology to accomplish Kennedy’s daring goal, scientists such as USGS geologist Eugene Shoemaker brought up another point. He argued that if America was going to send people to the moon, then those star voyagers should do more than just plant the flag and come back. They should also carry out scientific work, collecting rocks, making geological observations, and deploying experiments that would help scientists better understand the nature of the moon, Earth, and entire solar system while teaching us something about our own species. NASA recognized the value of this and, slowly at first but more aggressively later on, agreed to train astronauts in geological principles and techniques. MOVE TO FLAGSTAFF The year 1963 proved to be pivotal to the story. Shoemaker moved the headquarters of the USGS Branch of Astrogeology from Menlo Park, California, to Flagstaff to help prepare for the Apollo missions. A new facility would be built atop McMillan Mesa, adjacent to Buffalo Park, Flagstaff’s new outdoor wildlife attraction. Until then, the Museum of Northern Arizona provided the USGS workspace at its research complex. The USGS also rented various spaces around town to accommodate its burgeoning staff, even after its new center on McMillan Mesa opened in 1965. In downtown alone, USGS staff occupied three floors of the Arizona Bank Building on Birch Street; the Old Annex (also known as the “Dance Hall”) along Santa Fe Avenue, where Kachina Restaurant’s main parking lot now sits; and the Burris Building at 119 E. Aspen St., where scientists carried out lunar terrain analyses to determine suitability of proposed landing sites. The USGS also rented a building on the Southside and used it as the “Rock Lab,” where staff prepared and analyzed rock samples. Located on Mike’s Pike, the building now houses the Flag Tee Factory. 10

Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine

Northern AZ Mt Living Magazine | November 2018  
Northern AZ Mt Living Magazine | November 2018