Before astronauts can go back to the Moon, there'll be lots of tests -- tests of the rockets, the landers, and the astronauts themselves. And there may even be some tests like the one that ended 50 years ago today: a week-long simulated trip to the Moon.
At the time of the test, no one had flown in space at all, much less all the way to the Moon. And no one was sure how crew members would react. There was no way to simulate long exposure to cosmic rays or zero-gravity, but you could simulate the isolation and cramped conditions.
So on the afternoon of April 15th, 1958, six Navy enlisted men entered a 5-by-11-foot decompression chamber at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. They spent a week in the chamber because that's about how long it would take for a round trip to the Moon.
The men worked nine-and-a-half-hour days. Much of that time was spent dealing with flashing lights that tested their math and reasoning skills. The men had eight hours a day to sleep, and the remaining time to eat or relax.
The volunteers complained mainly of boredom and the cramped conditions. But there were no brawls or other major conflicts, showing that a crew could get along well enough for a trip to the Moon.
The Moon is in good view tonight. It rises in late evening, with the bright star Antares following a little later. The Moon will move closer to Antares during the night, and they'll snuggle quite close together at first light tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield
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