Stanford University
Apollo 16 landing

Branner Earth Sciences Library exhibit celebrates the Apollo missions

A display that is part of a collection donated by geophysics professor emeritus Robert Kovach allows the public to track the rover movements from Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions and locate their landing sites on a comprehensive map of the moon.

BY Alex Shashkevich, Stanford News
ClockJuly 17, 2019

Maps and globes of the moon, photos of lunar expeditions and a transcript of a conversation between two Apollo 16 astronauts are now on display at Stanford’s Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections.

Andria Olson

The items are part of a collection donated by Robert Kovach, Stanford professor emeritus of geophysics. Pieces from Kovach’s collection are featured inside a glass case, alongside a selection of newer maps and photos of the moon from the Branner Library.

The display allows the public to track the rover movements from Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions and locate their landing sites on a comprehensive map of the moon, said Andria Olson, an assistant map librarian at the Branner Library.

Kovach, who taught at Stanford from 1965 until 2005, conducted active seismic and lunar seismic profiling experiments in 1972 for the Apollo 14, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions. Each of these missions completed successful moon landings. Apollo 17 was the last time a human set foot on the moon. Kovach received the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA in 1973 for his contributions.

The collection could be helpful to the historians of space and others interested in Apollo missions.

“Given that we’re now considering going back to the moon, understanding its geology would be of importance in order to design new experiments,” said Julie Sweetkind-Singer, head librarian of the Branner Library. “The tests designed by Dr. Kovach and carried out on the Apollo missions provide the raw data for analysis.”

Olson said she has been eager to display Kovach’s collection ever since she found out about its existence from Sweetkind-Singer. Kovach’s donation sat unexamined for about a decade, she said.

“We thought the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission would be the perfect chance to pull the collection out,” Olson said.

One of the most compelling parts of the exhibit is the transcript of a conversation between astronauts Charles Duke and John Young. The two piloted the lunar module for Apollo 16.

Olson said the dialogue between the two astronauts is marked by “ironic normality” that “will undoubtedly bring a smile” to the faces of visitors. Kovach also donated several rover film reels from Apollo 14, 16 and 17 as well as images and reports from the missions.

As part of the exhibit, Olson also set up jigsaw puzzles for visitors to the library. Near the display case, people can work on complex puzzles of the world map and of the moon.

The exhibit will remain on display until mid-August. The Branner Library, located at 397 Panama Mall, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Apollo 16 exhibit materials

Items from the Branner Earth Sciences Library exhibit on the Apollo program.

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