Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bedstead crashes - and history might have been different

Forty years ago today, just a few miles south east of Houston at Ellington Air Force Base in Texas, Neil Armstrong fell out of bed.

Well, that's oversimplifying things probably too much. Armstrong was testing the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle when he lost control and had to eject out. he landed by parachute suffering only minor injuries - but the LLRV was a $1.5 million wrote-off.

This strange flying bedstead contraption - seen flying here - was just about the only way that NASA could reasonably accurately simulate the control needed to approach the moon's surface in 1/6th earth gravity.

It's said that Armstrong was coolness personified, hanging on and trying to regain control for as long as possible before baling, showing the kind of split-second hard-nosed decision making that earned him the prime shot for being the first man on the moon.

Four decades ago today, Armstrong came within seconds of death. Had that happened, we'd never have heard that famous line: "This is one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

The irony is that Armstrong's back-up was Jim Lovell - the ill-fated commander of Apollo 13....who never actually got to walk on the moon at all.

No comments: