2015 Leif Erikson Exploration Awards

Icelandic president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson presents Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt with the 2015 Leif Erikson Exploration Award. (Photo: Exploration Museum / Andri Marino)

American Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Australian around the world sailor Jessica Watson and British exploration historian Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones have been awarded the Leif Erikson Exploration Awards by The Exploration Museum. The museum is located in the town of Húsavík on the northern coast of Iceland, thirty miles from the Arctic Circle. It is dedicated to the history of human exploration, from the early explorers to the exploration of space. The awards were announced this week at a press conference at the museum.

The Leif Erikson Exploration Award
Awarded to an explorer for a recent or a lifetime achievement in the field of exploration.

Harrison Schmitt
Harrison Schmitt

For his scientific work on the surface of the Moon in 1972, and for his part in the geology training of all the astronauts that walked on the Moon before him, astronaut Harrison Schmitt is awarded The Leif Erikson Exploration Award.

As the lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, he became the 12th and final Apollo astronaut to set foot on the Moon. As a geologist, he is the only professional scientist to have walked on the Moon, and the only scientist to have flown beyond low Earth orbit.

The Leif Erikson Young Explorer Award
Awarded to an explorer under the age of 35 for great achievements in exploration.

Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson

Australian sailor Jessica Watson is awarded The Leif Erikson Young Explorer Award for her 210-day voyage around the world, from October 2009 to May 2010. When she arrived back in Sydney on May 15, she became the youngest person to have completed a non-stop and unassisted southern hemisphere solo circumnavigation, at the age of 16. An inspiration to both young people and adults around the world, Jessica does regular talks about exploration and her voyage. She tells her story in the book True Spirit.

The Leif Erikson Exploration History Award
Awarded to a person or an organization that has worked to promote and preserve exploration history.

Huw Lewis-Jones
Huw Lewis-Jones

For his commitment to the history of exploration, polar guide Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones is awarded the Leif Erikson Exploration History Award. The author of many acclaimed books, his work has been published in more than a dozen languages. His heritage activity and writings on visual culture, photography and film, seafaring, mountaineering, and remote environments has earned his subjects wide international attention. His next book, Across the Arctic Ocean, is published this year by Thames & Hudson in London and New York.

A Trip to the Moon and the Role of Iceland in Apollo


A talk by Moonwalker and Geologist Harrison Schmitt
at Reykjavík
University – July 9, 2015 at 5.00 pm.
Hosted by The Exploration Museum.

The exposure of Apollo Astronauts to the geology of Iceland contributed greatly to their experience as they prepared for lunar exploration and sampling. All the lunar landing crews benefited from examination of the varied rock assemblages found in glacial outwash channels that resemble the complexities of the lunar surface debris layer.

In his talk, Harrison Schmitt tells us about his trip to the Moon, his scientific work on the lunar surface and the role that Iceland played in the training of the Apollo astronauts.

Harrison Schmitt has the diverse experience of a geologist, pilot, astronaut, administrator, businessman, writer, and U. S. Senator. He is a honorary fellow of the Geological Society of America.

At the end of his talk, Schmitt will be presented with the first annual Leif Erikson Exploration Award, by the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, on the occasion of Schmitt’s 80th birthday this week.

Learn more about the Training of Astronauts in Iceland.

Photo: Sævar Helgi Bragason

Documentary: The Lost Vikings

The west coast of Greenland was the site of a thriving Viking colony for hundreds of years. Originally settled by explorers who had bravely sailed across the treacherous North Atlantic from their homes in Scandinavia, the Greenland outpost grew into a farming community of thousands. And then something went terribly wrong. Visitors in the 1400s reported that the inhabitants had simply vanished, leaving no bodies and few clues about what could have happened.

Speculation has long centered on suddenly adverse weather conditions or possibly a war with local Inuit people, but in this documentary, an installment of PBS’s Secrets of the Dead set, a team of archaeologists, forensic anthropologists, and botanists visit a desolate and remote stretch of the Greenland coast and solve the mystery of the lost Vikings.

Apollo astronaut training in Iceland

Astronaut Bill Anders training in Iceland in 1967.
Astronaut Bill Anders training in Iceland in 1967.

In 1965 and 1967, two groups of Apollo astronauts traveled to Iceland to study geology. Among the astronauts in the 1967 group were Neil Armstrong and Bill Anders. Bill was on the crew of Apollo 8, the first flight to and around the Moon. Neil was the first man to walk on the Moon.

Learn more:
– Geology training of Apollo astronauts in Iceland
– 2015 re-visit of Apollo astronauts to Iceland