Apollo’s Lunar Approach Simulator
China landed its unmanned Chang’e-3 spacecraft on the moon Dec. 14, making it the third nation to accomplish this monumentally technical feat.
It got us thinking about the beginning of efforts to reach and, ultimately, land humans on the moon. One part of those early efforts involved NASA’s Lunar Orbit and Landing Approach, a spaceflight simulator built at Langley Research Center in the 1960s.
The $2 million project was meant to train astronauts what their approach to the moon would be like and to learn problems they might encounter. The system was made of four scale models of portions of the lunar surface as they would appear at different altitudes, a cockpit with controls mounted on a gantry and a closed-circuit TV system.