Watch Neil Armstrong narrowly escape a 1968 training accident


44 Responses to “Watch Neil Armstrong narrowly escape a 1968 training accident”

  1. 5onthe5 says:


    Can I ask a totally novice question? 

    How does that thing fly?

    • Joe DiMaggio says:


    • dpamac says:

      The short version: It had one large engine that provided the lift that was then throttled back to 5/6ths to simulate lunar gravity there were then a series of thrusters that provided the powered descent, which could be used by the pilot to vary the rate of descent.  There was also a series of smaller thrusters for pitch and yaw. There were two LLRVs and three subsequent LLTVs that were built. Three were destroyed in accidents. All of the Apollo commanders, despite its unreliable nature, felt it was important to their training. In fact Dr. Bob Guilruth was so worried about it he asked each returning commander (who actually piloted the landing, despite the distinction of the LM pilot in the opposite seat) and they all responded with a resounding yes, it was essential in training to land on the moon.

      • Theranthrope says:

        “You train harder than you play.”

        After mastering this flying deathtrap, piloting the actual lunar lander would, for all-intents-and-purposes, be easy-mode, and that’s were it counts.

    • Ito Kagehisa says:

      In this video, it doesn’t – the main engine’s out.  So it is not so much flying as plummeting.

  2. vtboinger says:

    Thanks so much for posting this and telling this great story.  I’m sure others will point this out, but it was the LEM or LM (Lunar Excursion Module…later renamed just Lunar Module  because “excursion” seemed frivolous), not the LLRV that carried Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon.

  3. Greg says:

    Notice the thousands of suspicious black dots and squiggles in the sky all around the module. REDACTED UFOS!!! WHAT IS NASA HIDING?????

  4. Daneel says:

    A flying bedstead!

  5. Robert Cruickshank says:

    If someone were to produce a flying scale model of that thing, my mouse would hit the “buy now” button so fast you wouldn’t be able to see it.  And I’d probably crash it way worse than that.

    • cservant says:

      Crash it and die.

      If I remember right, it was said to be very unstable flying near the ground on Earth.  The full LEM however was said to be quite elegant.

      Another part of the story not mentioned is after this crash, Armstrong defended continued use of the LLRV and the LLTV despite it’s dangers. 

      This incident, as well as many other reasons was why Armstrong was picked for the Apollo 11 mission.

      • Ito Kagehisa says:

        And a good thing, too, since Armstrong had to manually fly the bird (on near empty fuel tanks) when the original touchdown site turned out to be unuseable.  We would probably have lost the whole landing team if Armstrong wasn’t a great pilot with nerves of steel.

  6. bcsizemo says:

    At this point in his career I’m not sure the ejecting part would really impress me.  He was a test pilot before becoming involved with NASA and obviously good at dealing with problematic craft.  Now the part about just shaking it off and heading back to the office, yeah that’s impressive.

  7. SedanChair says:

    “OMG Neil are you OK?”


    “Wait where are you going?”

    “Back to my office, I have to design some sort of counterweight for my giant balls”

  8. Wordguy says:

    “The Astronaut Office” is the name of my next band.

  9. dpamac says:

    At an event earlier this year at KSC Charlie Duke and Ed Mitchell were asked who was the best pilot. They both jokingly said, “Well, ME.” After the chuckles stopped Charlie Duke very seriously said, “Neil Armstrong. Without a doubt.”

  10. Bearpaw01 says:

    From his obituary in The Economist: “He spent his final years on his farm in rural Ohio, flying gliders in his spare time (it was, said the supposedly emotionless engineer, the closest humans could come to being birds).”

    That is a hell of an image. An aged Neil Armstrong, flying gliders over rural Ohio.

    And no humans have gone farther than Low Earth Orbit in nearly *40 years*.

    • TimRowledge says:

      Yup, he started in gliders and went back to them. In general gliding is a bit safer than spaceflight but things do go wrong; an old friend of mine had to bail out at 900ft a couple of weeks ago when a UFO shot him down while on the way to caifornia to make those strange boom noises. OK, actually another glider’s wingtip sliced his fuselage in half whilst thermalling. See

    • dpamac says:

      The youngest man alive who stepped foot on another planet is Charlie Duke. He’s 76.

  11. Of course he went back to his desk. That’s where he kept the Scotch.

  12. vonbobo says:

    he had lost control of the vehicle by the time this video starts. He sticks with it for 11 more seconds trying to get it under control, before bailing one second before impact. Amazing.

  13. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    He was supposed to crash so they could make him better, stronger, faster.  Naah nah nah nahhhhh…

  14. Preston Sturges says:

    Ejecting is also no picnic and often causes injuries. 

    • Theranthrope says:

      That’s the one thing Soviet-designed jet aircraft did, which the American aircraft could never seem to match: superior Soviet pilot ejection technology.

      Which is mystifying considering that American pilots were such a valuable “commodity” in terms of the amount of resources spent on pilot equipment and training, (well… until the prices for 4th, 4.5th, and 5th generation aircraft flipped that), which exceeded the value of the airframe itself. To put it another way: the pilot was worth more than the plane he/she was flying, so I’d think that I’d think that American tech would be better at preserving that.

      There’s actually a great book that discusses this subject, at length: “Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs”, where USAF pilots flew captured/bought/stolen Soviet aircraft for top-secret ”
      air-to-air ‘asymmetric’-aircraft combat training” at Groom Lake (Yes, Dreamland: Area 51), here in Nevada. 

      American’s flying MiGs required a great deal ingenuity, and in some cases, acts of pure cunning, in fabricating or “acquiring” replacement parts and consumables to keep the planes in airworthy condition …without tipping-off the Soviet GRU at the same time. There is actually a lengthy description in the book on the trouble requisitions had in sourcing replacement rocket charges for the Soviet-built ejection seats, as they had to be replaced every six months for safety-purposes.

  15. swankgd says:

    ?  Am I crazy, but these do not appear to be the same incidents.  The youtube one shows the vehicle land on its side about 1 second after ejection.  The one on the Smithsonian site shows the vehicle drift for about 3 seconds before landing almost on its tail.

  16. hutchfx says:

    This crash was simulated for HBO’s “From the Earth To The Moon”. There are a few behind the scenes photos at

  17. Teller says:

    “Hey, Ridley, you got any Beemans?”

  18. awjt says:

    I thought Armstrong just got banned for life? 

  19. “I can’t think of another person,” Bean recalls, “let alone another astronaut, who would have just gone back to his office after ejecting a fraction of a second before getting killed.”

    In his book Carrying the fire, Mike Collins says that Armstrong spent more time on decisions than any other pilot on the space program, and made more correct decisions as a result. He gave the example of Neil landing at Tranquillity with 20 seconds of fuel in the descent stage, though there was probably a bit more than that in reality.

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