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Apollo 11 astronauts used weird and wacky training techniques to mimic the lunar landing

Toni Hetherington, June 9, 2019 12:00PM Kids News

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US President Richard Nixon (right) welcomes the Apollo 11 astronauts (from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin) aboard the USS Hornet ship, while they are still confined to the Mobile Quarantine Facility. Picture: AFP/NASA media_cameraUS President Richard Nixon (right) welcomes the Apollo 11 astronauts (from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin) aboard the USS Hornet ship, while they are still confined to the Mobile Quarantine Facility. Picture: AFP/NASA

moon landing

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The Apollo 11 astronauts were trained to handle any problem or issue imaginable on their moon mission.

From an on-board explosion, landings in water to issues with zero gravity*, the astronauts ran training session after training session to know exactly what to do when things were going right and when they were going wrong.

Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins practised every second of their mission many times. They trained indoors, outdoors, in spacesuits, underwater, in planes, in pools, in the ocean and anywhere else NASA thought was appropriate. They even practised planting the US flag many times in moon-like conditions.

S69-36206 001 media_cameraNeil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin training to collect moon rocks and soil on the moon. Picture: NASA

They spent a lot of time in the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico as a training run for the planned water landing when they returned to Earth.

The astronauts were also sent to the jungle and the desert for survival training in case their return to Earth missed the ocean completely.

The astronauts attended the Panama Jungle Survival School on Albrook Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone.

To simulate the effects of zero and reduced gravity, they suspended the astronauts at an angle by wires and let them experience one-sixth of their weight, which is what they expected to experience on the moon.

They also undertook spacewalks underwater as they thought the drag of the water would be similar to the gravity on the moon.

Michael Collins training inside the command module for the Apollo 11 mission. Picture: NASA media_cameraMichael Collins training inside the command module for the Apollo 11 mission. Picture: NASA

The astronauts spent hours in practice spacecrafts to master the routines needed to fly the craft, land the craft and make sure the two modules (the Command module piloted by Collins and the Lunar module piloted by Aldrin) could separate for the moon landing and join up again.

They practised the countdown for launch as well as photographing and recording the moon walk on cameras and video cameras.

A giant meteor crater in Flagstaff, Arizona, was the closest thing on Earth that NASA could find to mimic* the moon surface.

Here they learned how to land the lunar module, how to deal with G-forces*, how to drive electric rovers on the lunar surface, how to moon walk and how to communicate with the mission control crew back in America.

This undated image obtained from NASA shows Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander for the Apollo 11 Moon-landing mission, training for the historic event in a Lunar Module simulator in the Flight Crew Training Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Accompanying Armstrong on the Moon flight will be Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.  Armstrong has died, US media reported August 25, 2012. He was 82. Armstrong underwent cardiac bypass surgery, earlier this month after doctors found blockages in his coronary arteries. He and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of awed television viewers worldwide.    = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NASA" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS = media_cameraNeil Armstrong training in the Lunar Module simulator at Kennedy Space Centre. Picture: AFP/NASA
(A19730040000) media_cameraThe spacesuit, worn by Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission. Picture: Smithsonian/Jim Preston

Their space gear was also tested at Flagstaff, including the astronauts’ first-generation spacesuits. They ripped on the Arizona rocks, forcing a redesign before the mission.

Armstrong and Aldrin practised gathering soil samples with tongs and scoops so they could collect moon rocks and dust from the moon surface.

Before going into quarantine* for 21 days, the astronauts spent one last weekend with their families — all the time knowing they might not come home again.

Armstrong sons call for more space missions

GLOSSARY

  • zero gravity: when no apparent force of gravity acts on the body, causing it to float
  • mimic: copy
  • G-forces: a force acting on a body as a result of acceleration or gravity
  • quarantine: a period or place of isolation to prevent the spread of disease

EXTRA READING

Part 3: The three Apollo 11 astronauts

Part 5: The Saturn V rocket and Apollo 11


QUICK QUIZ

  1. Why did the astronauts practice in the desert and jungle?
  2. How dd they practice walking with the effects of zero gravity?
  3. Why were their spacesuits redesigned?
  4. Where was the crater located on Earth that was most like the moon’s surface?
  5. What did Armstrong and Aldrin use to practice collecting moon rocks?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY
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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
 
Refer to the accompanying 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing classroom workbook with 25 activities. Can be purchased for $5 including GST at https://kidsnews.myshopify.com/products/moon-landing


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Extra Reading in moon landing