How NASA saved money while saving your life.
Whoa! I DID NOT know this.
Back in the day, NASA operated a number of Apollo Program related simulators at Langley. One of them was this bad boy, the “Lunar Excursion Module Simulator (LEMS).” LEMS was rigged up to bear 4/5ths of the weight of a test Lunar Lander to support lunar landing simulation. They even ran sims at night to help simulate lunar lighting. I knew this. In fact, I just sold a story that mentions this facility.
What I did not know…what I would not have suspected…is that this thing, which the Langley folks call “The NASA Gantry” it still in operation. For the last fifty years, it’s been an amusement park ride for grown up nerds who…I mean, it’s live on as the Impact Dynamics Research Facility (IDRF) which has been used to study numerous issues important to general aviation safety. This thing may have saved your life. Seriously.
And it’s not done yet! Built in 1963, the 240-foot high, 400-foot-long, 265-foot-wide A-frame steel structure located at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va has been upgraded over the years to carry over twice the original load and is now being used in tests of the new Orion capsule.
Here it is in all three phases of its existence, training Neil Armstong to land on the moon (right) drop testing a helicopter (bottom left) and testing Orion (top left).