Landing on the moon stands as one of the greatest achievements of humanity, remaining as a testament to the technological progress made in less than a century.
Of course, getting us there was a tremendous effort and one that required substantial investments to be made in both training and equipment. Perhaps surprisingly, virtual reality was used as early as the 1960s as a key training tool to ready astronauts for the dangers they would face over 300,000 kilometres from Earth.
Navigating into the skies above Earth would be done under the control of a computer, as leaving thousands of pounds of thrust under human hands was left to be an absolute last measure.
Upon arriving in Earth orbit, a series of complex de-coupling, docking and manoeuvring measures would be needed to assemble the vessel that would take men to the moon. The training required to expertly perform these operations was immense, and required a host of training vehicles and a simulator facilities.
To practice orbital docking, 1:1 models of the lunar and command modules were suspended by wires in a massive hangar. The pilots would then sit in the models and control the vehicles along the wires, leading to docking.
Before strapping themselves to the massive Saturn V rocket and launching for Earth orbit, the astronauts had to develop an understanding of the terrain they would be dealing on the lunar surface. As only robotic landers had ventured to the rocky body, scientists prepared astronauts by having them trek around the arid Arizona desert in full EVA gear, planting flags, collecting soil samples and simply practising walking.
To create the simulated lunar environment, massive craters of varying sizes were blown out of the ground to form what’s now called the Cinder Lake crater field.
Being one of the greatest undertakings in human history, the journey to the moon had to require extensive training and technology use. It’s likely that without the virtual reality systems afforded to the astronauts, a landing may never have been possible.