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Sci - Tech

How NASA’s ingenious moon simulator helped Apollo astronauts to land on lunar surface

Monday - Nov 26, 2012, 11:34am (GMT+5.5)
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London -  NASA’s Lunar Orbit and Landing Approach Simulator (LOLA), helped Apollo astronauts prepare to land a spacecraft on the surface of a moon that no one has ever gone to before, it has been revealed.

According to the Daily Mail, the high-tech simulator was designed to represent the view an Apollo astronaut would see if they were looking at the lunar surface just prior to establishing orbit of the moon.

Built at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, project LOLA was meant to study problems related to landing on the lunar surface and it cost the space agency nearly 2 million dollars, the paper reported.

The pilot of the LOLA was sat atop a gantry staring at a detailed visual encounter with the lunar surface.

The machine was built to boast a cockpit, a closed-circuit television system and four large murals or scale models which represented portions of the lunar surface as seen from various altitudes.

The LOLA was one of many projects dedicated to proving the success of the ambitious Apollo program announced by President Kennedy in 1961.

Comprising the Lunar Landing Research Facility and conceived in 1962 the gigantic centre was designed to help develop techniques to land the rocket powered lunar module onto the moon’s surface.

With only one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity experienced on the moon, piloting any craft to the surface would be unlike any other atmospheric descent before.

Another issue NASA scientists anticipated was the harsh light and glare created by the lack of an atmosphere and the simulator was tweaked to allow the astronaut pilots to experience these conditions.

In theory the LOLA was brilliant, unfortunately though the device was not practical because after Apollo 11 in July 1969, NASA realised that there were no inherent problems in anticipating the lunar surface or landing.

Described by author James Hansen in his book, ‘Spaceflight Revolution - NASA Langley Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo’, as no more than a fairground ride, the LOLA was discontinued soon after Neil Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon before the 1960s were finished.


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