All About Space

Apollo highlights: getting mission-ready


Planting flags and picking rocks

It was perhaps one of the most iconic moments of Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong planting the American flag into lunar soil. And he had to train for it in a simulated moonscape surrounded by

‘lunar rocks’. It was also common practice for all Apollo astronauts to play pretend when it came to collecting samples!

Stepping onto the lunar surface

It was one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong had to practise climbing up and down the ladder that led from the Lunar Module – dubbed Eagle – to the lunar surface repeatedly a week before he and his crew launched for the Moon.

Walking in reduced gravity

On the Moon astronauts experience­d gravity that meant they ‘weighed in’ at one-sixth their weight. The best way to simulate the experience was for would-be spacefarer­s to move along a wall inside the hangar at NASA’s Langley Research Center. It gave an insight into how fast they would be able to move.


It’s a tried-and-tested method that has served astronauts well. The Apollo spacecraft were designed to return to our home planet by making an almighty splash into the Earth’s extensive oceans. Knowing what to expect meant that astronauts had to train in pools of water, swimming around model space capsules.

Simulating the perfect landing

Featuring a General Electric turbofan engine, a vehicle that represente­d the Lunar Module was thrust into the air and could reach elevations of up to 450 metres (1,500 feet) to replicate the Moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth that of Earth’s.

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