National Geographic : 1965 Jan
realistically as the instructor puts the trainer through its paces. "4, 3, 2, 1, 0, lift-off." With a simulated roar of Titan II rocket engines, your imaginary flight begins. The spacecraft clock is running, and now the altimeter needle comes off the peg as the Titan rumbles its way skyward. Then, seconds after lift-off, the black-and white eight-ball attitude instrument rolls slightly to the left and then downward as the rocket arcs over and heads down range from Cape Kennedy. "Two minutes, thirty seconds. Stand by for BECO." A yellow light flashes on, indicating booster engine cutoff. In a moment, a green light and a roar confirm that the Titan's second-stage engine has come to life. "Five minutes, thirty seconds, guidance looks green. Stand by for SECO." The read-out display of Gemini's timer slowly counts the seconds to the point of sus tainer-engine cutoff. Now the engine roar gives way to silence, and you are in orbit, circling the earth at a speed of some 17,500 miles an hour. I remember that Maj. Virgil I. Grissom was once asked what part of the Gemini flight would be the most difficult. "I guess the part between lift-off and landing," Gus replied. LEM Pilot Must Land Carefully Though the Gemini trainer seems complex, the Apollo simulator will surpass it. Stanley Faber, chief of flight simulation, likes to tell visitors, "It will have everything, including literally-a bathroom and a kitchen sink." More than twice as large as the Gemini trainer, the Apollo equipment will actually consist of two units: the simulators of the Command Module and the LEM. Among the many impressive features, an out-the-window display gives the crew a panoramic, make-believe journey through half a million miles of space. Nine tons of optical equipment produce this celestial ex travaganza so accurately that astronauts can practice their critical star navigation and moon landings. Though the Apollo simulators are not yet operational, we can get a good feel for what the moon landing in the LEM will be like in our Guidance and Control Division. Stepping through a doorway, one enters a cabin some what like the bridge of a ship. Instead of a ship's wheel, we find switches that can begin a make-believe landing. Through a triangular window on the left glares a nightmare surface-red and yellow crosses and arrows grouped in squares like a patchwork quilt. This particular device can not simulate the valleys and plains of the moon, as the actual LEM simulator will do, so it creates a completely abstract surface in full color. Docking Trainer Rides Cushion of Air Test pilot James Brickle describes the land ing problem: "The autopilot starts you curv ing toward the lunar surface. You take over at 200 feet, as the LEM rushes downward. Your job is to slow it with your descent en gine enough for a soft landing in a safe place -and you have only two minutes to do it. After that your landing fuel burns out. With out power, and with no air or parachute to slow you down, you would smash into the lunar surface." But these stationary simulators have one thing in common: If you make a mistake, you do not smash into anything. You merely press the button marked "Reset" and start over. For critical piloting tasks, we use simula tors that move like the spacecraft themselves. One of these "moving-base" trainers, the Translation and Docking Simulator, is here at the center. It occupies a gymnasium-size building painted black inside to suggest the darkness of space. Now, with Comdr. Walter M. Schirra, Jr., at the controls, Gemini nods, turns, and rolls. From within the cabin, Wally peers out at the bulky Agena, suspended at the far end of the darkened chamber and half lit by a shower of artificial sunlight. World's Largest Vacuum Chamber Takes Man to Moon Yet Never Leaves Earth Now nearing completion at the Manned Spacecraft Center near Houston, Texas, the stainless steel silo stands 120 feet high. In this artist's view, cutaway of the depressur ized cylinder shows the Apollo Command Module that will orbit the moon. With hinged nose cap open, one of the three-man crew peers out. Controlled temperatures within the chamber approximate those of the moon's hostile environment: The spacecraft must withstand temperatures reaching -280° F. on the dark side, while the lighted side bakes at 260° F. The 29,000-pound Lunar Excursion Module, here hoisted by crane, will attach atop the Command Module to take on two passengers for a moon landing. PAINFING 3Y PIERRE MION AND RESEARCH BY GEORGE W. BEATTY(C' N.G.S.