Great explainer on how to land on the moon

Originally published at: Great explainer on how to land on the moon | Boing Boing

1 Like

Having spent many many many quarters on Lunar Lander in the late 70s and early 80s, I am confident I could land successfully on the Moon at least 10% of the time.


A few years back I had to build a reasonable simulation of the Apollo 11 flight path, and expended months on refining the approach and arrival at the landing site (as well as the subsequent exit, but that was a bit easier).

It made me appreciate the logistical difficulties involved with planning, such as the burn rate relative to the changing mass of the lunar module. In the end, though, I think I had the harder job, since my measure of success was trying to land at a particular spot, whereas Armstrong just had to put the thing down in one piece anywhere.


That and Centipede were my jams!

EDIT TO ADD: I just looked up Centipede, which is available on the AARP site! Old grandma is feeling old now!


Er…well…maybe not. Armstrong was not able to put down on the designated spot as it was too rocky and uneven and he spent a lot more time (and fuel) than was envisaged in finding a suitable landing site. They could easily have wound up as an ugly smear on the lunar surface.

Having player Kerbal Space Program more recently, I would reduce my success rate to less than 1%.


No actually Armstrong was already landing several miles long, and the actual landing site was not known with certainty until after the crew had returned to orbit.

This is the cause of the dubilation from Pete Conrad where he actually had to divert slightly to avoid landing on his target, the surveyor lander.

I’ll agree that the actual landing site was not known until he actually landed.
Regards Conrad having to dodge his target:

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe.

So the site of the surveyor lander was a known thing and it was always intended that Conrad land within walking distance.

Edit: The real reason that the landing site was a rocky choice was in fact an overshoot. vis:

as the spidery Lunar Module “Eagle” undocked from the Command Module “Columbia,” residual pressure inside the tunnel that connected the two spacecraft before undocking wasn’t sufficiently vented, causing Eagle to get an additional boost as it separated. It was slight, but at around nine minutes before touchdown, Armstrong realized they were going to overshoot their landing site, estimating they’d miss by approximately three miles (which was a close educated guess, they actually missed by four). As the moon is littered with boulders and craters, the planned landing site was chosen as it was comparatively smooth. So with the modified flight plan, the duo had to find another suitable place to safely touch down.

Which he did, with an estimated 30 seconds of fuel remaining.

well that’s all part of the “in one piece” mandate.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.