lunar landing training vehicle
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Fig. 1 - The Lunar Landing Research Vehicle flying at Dryden Flight Research Center. (NASA: ECN-1606)

The lunar landing training vehicle (LLTV) was just like the lunar module, and it was too unstable to fly. Neil Armstrong had to eject because he couldn't control it.

Two vehicles were built to train the Apollo astronauts to fly the lunar module. The Lunar Landing Research Vehicles (LLRV) was designed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. Bell Aircraft produced and delivered two of them to NASA. The lessons learned from these vehicles were applied toward the more advanced Lunar Lander Training Vehicles (LLTV), three of which were built.

LLRV no. 1, piloted by Neil Armstrong, crashed in May 1968 when the helium pressurization system for the steering jets failed, leaving Armstrong no way to control the vehicle. This was not because the vehicle was too unstable to control, or because Armstrong was a poor pilot. This is like driving your car down the freeway and having the steering wheel come off in your hands. You will crash in that situation, and it's not because cars (in general) can't be steered -- it's because a mechanical failure caused your car to lose control in that particular instance.

Fig. 2 - The LLRV team poses by one of the aircraft in conjunction with the 100th successful flight. (NASA: E-14754)
There were two other crashes: two of the LLTVs crashed, one in December 1968 and the other in January 1971. These too were caused by technical failures. They used state-of-the-art fly-by-wire technology, and it did not always work perfectly. This is why the vehicles were equipped with ejection seats.

By April 1966 the LLRV had already performed more than 100 successful flights (Fig. 2). Conspiracists generally refer only to Armstrong's crash and imply that this was the typical outcome of an LLRV flight. On the contrary, the typical outcome was a safe, successful landing. A fleet of experimental aircraft that can perform hundreds of times over several years with only three serious crashes is not inherently dangerous, unstable, or unflyable. To imply otherwise is to ignore a great deal of fact.

It is important to understand that these vehicles were not built as prototypes for the lunar module. A prototype is built to test the technology that will go into the final version, whether everything fits together, and to determine how it can be built on an assembly line. The LLTVs and LLRVs were built to reproduce for the pilot, as best as could be determined in advance, the "feel" of flying the lunar module using whatever ad hoc technology had to be included to do that in an earth environment.

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