On 1 June 2019, as part of activities marking the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon, a 'Moon Talk' was held in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke also participated in a panel discussion. During the ‘First Moon Landing’ introductory presentation, the former director of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Robotics and Mechatronics Center, Gerd Hirzinger, showed exciting aspects and details of the Apollo 11 mission using a newly-developed Virtual Reality (VR) simulation. This simulation shows the descent and landing of Eagle, the exploration of the terrain around the landing site by the astronauts, as well as part of the ascent and return to the Command and Service Module (CSM) that remained in lunar orbit.
Using a scientific approach, the operations and the chronological sequences of these mission phases were thoroughly analysed and reconstructed on the basis of available NASA documents, radio voice recordings and video recordings. This process was necessary because, according to NASA statements, the original tapes on which the telemetry was recorded during the mission can no longer be found in the archives.
The trajectory reconstructions for the descent and landing, and the ascent from the lunar surface, were carried out at the DLR Institute of System Dynamics and Control. A temporally-consistent descent profile for the lander, showing location and attitude, was computed on the basis of relevant sources from which Eagle’s planned flight guidance inputs and course positions were obtained. With the help of precise Modelica system dynamics models and powerful in-house optimisation tools, physically and flight-dynamically realistic trajectories were generated that can be realised with the available thrust of Eagle’s main engine and which also correspond to the available data on fuel reserves.
The overall production and the integration of the trajectories into the VR simulation was performed by VR Dynamix GmbH, Munich. In the near future, the VR installation that was displayed will be extended with additional, visionary elements having the theme ‘Moon Village’. Interested visitors will then be able to personally experience this world in the VRlab, the Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRlab) at the Deutsches Museum. The VR simulation will also be showcased at the Institute of System Dynamics and Control Technology during the DLR Open Day in Oberpfaffenhofen on 21 July 2019, on the anniversary of the day when humans first set foot on the Moon.