When astronauts leave earth on their journey to the moon, they have a distinct advantage over Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the new world.
When astronauts leave earth on their journey to the moon, they have a distinct advantage over Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the new world. The U.S. Army, through its Topographic Command (TOPOCOM), has provided the astronauts with simulated data for training purposes and packets of detailed maps to aid in navigation, landing, and exploration.
Perhaps the most significant TOPOCOM contribution to the National Acro-nautics and Space Administration (NASA) program is a very detailed, three-dimensional model of each lunar landing area. The "3-D" model is used in a simulator in which astronauts spend several hundred hours practising "landings" and "takeoffs".
Photography obtained from unmanned space vehicles orbiting the moon and transmitted to earth by television signal form the base for preparation of maps. The photographic mosaic shown here consists of several individual photographs pieced together. Crater detail is annotated on plastic overlays. It is this crater and relief data furnished by NASA which is used to construct the model.
Using the patograph router shown here, the map data is translated to a preliminary stepped contour model in two feet by two feet sections of blocks made of foamed urethane. The step model is painted as a checking procedure in maintaining accuracies. The junction of the step represents a contour line. This junction enables the cartographer to do his job precisely. Only this line is left after he has completed his carving operation.
After the carving operation is completed, small craters, too small to be represented by contours, are added by transferring the detail from enlargements of the lunar photographs. Now the urethane blocks are put together to form the completed master model, measuring 16 by 25 feet.
From the master model, a negative is prepared and sent to NASA to serve as a mold for the preparation of the final model.
The final product is constructed of alternate layers of lightweight epoxy resin and fibreglass cloth which are built up to the desired thickness for strength and rigidity.
This model is next affixed to the "interface" or frame for installation in the Lunar Mission Simulator.
Transportation to a suitable site for painting and texturing is required to achieve proper reflectivity for the television scanning optics.
From the painting area, the completed model, weighing less than 400 pounds, is finally transported to the Lunar Mission Simulator at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center and is installed for use in the training of the NASA astronauts.