Land the Lunar Module

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Target Age Group
Middle School

Through computer simulation, students will understand the factors involved in making a successful landing on the Moon.

You will need
Computer with internet access

What to do
1. This activity allows you to play computer games and learn science at the same time. That’s right. It says “play computer games” in that first sentence. First, visit the Lunar Lander Challenge website. Here you will find several great online versions of the classic arcade game Lunar Lander. This game allows you not only to soft land but to move sideways. If you use a search engine such as Google and search on Lunar Lander Games you will find a number of different sites that permit you to play this game.

2. There are a number of great games and simulations that let you try your hand at the exciting and difficult business of landing a lunar module. Next, try going to the Project Apollo Archive site. Select a low level of difficulty at first. The trick is not to slow down too soon (at too high an altitude). Doing so depletes your fuel. Run out of fuel and a new lunar crater might be named in your memory!

3. The Eagle Lander 3D simulation is much more realistic and difficult than the arcade games. Even experienced pilots feel really great when they finally succeed at a safe landing. A free downloadable version is available online here. The freeware version is very nice but limited to the Apollo II simulation. This download is more than 60 Mb so be sure to have your parent or teacher’s permission before putting it on your system.

4. What are the challenges that you faced in attempting a safe landing? How did you address those challenges? How is using the software different than the real thing?

What's Going On
The flights of the Lunar Module certainly rank among the greatest technical achievements of the space age. Making an airless landing balanced on a rocket’s thrust is challenging business. Not only are the controls unfamiliar to pilots of airplanes and helicopters, but fuel quantities are very limited. After trying these games you will greatly appreciate the competence of the Apollo crews. For extra credit, research the number of seconds of fuel remaining that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had at touchdown.The X Prize Foundation hosts an annual Lunar Lander competition. See the website

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