Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 15 Mission


Science Experiments

Orbital Science | Surface Science

Orbital Science

Scientific Instrument ModuleInstrument layout within the SIM bay

In addition to their studies on the lunar surface, the Apollo 15 crew performed intensive studies of the Moon from lunar orbit. In addition to photography performed with hand-held cameras in the Command Module, a series of experiments were carried in the Scientific Instrument Module on the Service Module. The same suite of SIM bay instruments was also flown on Apollo 16.

The Metric and Panoramic cameras provided systematic photography of the lunar surface.

The Laser Altimeter measured the heights of lunar surface features

The S-Band Transponder Experiment measured regional variations in the Moon's gravitational acceleration.

The X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer Experiment measured the composition of the lunar surface.

The Gamma-ray Spectrometer Experiment measured the composition of the lunar surface.

The Alpha Particle Spectrometer Experiment measured radon emission from the lunar surface.

The Orbital Mass Spectrometer Experiment measured the composition of the lunar atmosphere.

The Bistatic Radar Experiment measured the scattering of radar waves from the lunar surface.

The Subsatellite measured regional variations in the Moon's gravitational acceleration and magnetic field and the distribution of charged particles around the Moon.

Surface Science

The Lunar Surface Experiment Package The Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Experiment Package. From left to right, the central station, Solar Wind Spectrometer, Lunar Surface Magnetometer, Heat Flow Experiment, and Suprathermal Ion Detector.

In addition to their geologic studies, the Apollo 15 crew performed several experiments on the lunar surface. The results of some of these experiments were either radioed to Earth by the crew or returned to Earth for laboratory analysis.

The Soil Mechanics Investigation studied the properties of the lunar soil.

The Solar Wind Composition Experiment collected samples of the solar wind for analysis on Earth.

Other experiments were deployed by the crew and then monitored from Earth by radio telemetry after the crew departed. This group of experiments was termed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP). Each experiment was connected by a cable to the ALSEP central station, which provide radio communication to Earth and electrical power from a radioisotope thermal generator. Some of these experiments continued to return data until September 1977, when the entire ALSEP network was turned off due to lack of funding for the ground support team.

The Passive Seismic Experiment detected lunar "moonquakes" and provided information about the internal structure of the Moon.

The Heat Flow Experiment measured the amount of heat coming out of the Moon.

The Lunar Surface Magnetometer measured the strength of the Moon's magnetic field.

The Laser Ranging Retroreflector measured very precisely the distance between the Earth and Moon.

The Cold Cathode Gauge measured the abundance of gases in the lunar atmosphere.

The Suprathermal Ion Detector Experiment studied the lunar ionosphere.

The Solar Wind Spectrometer measured the composition of the solar wind.

The Lunar Dust Detector studied the effects of lunar dust on the operation of the experiment package.

Other Apollo 15 Science Experiments

In addition to their lunar studies, the Apollo 15 crew performed several experiments intended to explore various aspects of the space environment. The following links connect to sites at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) for further information about these experiments.

The Window Meteoroid experiment studied impacts on the windows of the Apollo 15 Command Module to obtain information about the size distribution of very small micrometeorites.

The Light Flashes Experiment studied light flashes seen by the crew that are related to charged particles in space.

For more information:

Apollo 15 Dataset Descriptions
The National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) provides data and information on Apollo experiments upon request to individuals or organizations resident in the United States. The same services are available to scientists outside the United States through the World Data Center A for Rockets and Satellites. Normally, a charge is made for the requested data to cover the cost of reproduction and the processing of the request.

Catalog of Apollo Experiment Operations (1994)
NASA Reference Publication 1317, T.A. Sullivan, 184 pages.