AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Teaching Neil to Land—Simulators Used in the Apollo Program (Abstract)

Volume 47 number 2 (2019)

Ron MacNaughton


(Abstract only) The lunar module never landed until Neil Armstrong brought Eagle down on the Sea of Tranquility. It did not even have enough thrust to lift against Earth’s gravity. To practice landings, the astronaut crews spent many hours in simulators whose interiors and controls were identical to the spacecraft. As astronauts made adjustments to the controls, NASA computers calculated what the new orientation would be and changed the dials and views through the windows. This was before computers could generate images. The author has inspected actual components of the simulator from Cape Kennedy and talked to people who built them. The talk will explain some history of simulators and how the Apollo system worked. Light from models and film was projected into the spacecraft through eyepieces roughly the size of the windows of the lunar module. Those might have been the largest eyepieces ever made.