....Before the first manned flights of the new and untried Apollo spacecraft, NASA wanted to simulate here on Earth as much of the Space enviroment as possible. This was required for both major Apollo components: the Command and Service Modules (CSM) as well as the Lunar Module (LM)

In the spring of 1968, two important tests called 2TV-1 and LTA-8 were performed in the Space Enviroment Simulation Laboratory (SESL) at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. The SESL was a huge chamber capable of simulating the vacuum of space as well as the temperatures and lighting conditions that would be experienced during a space flight. In Chamber-A of the SESL the 2TV-1 test with the CSM took place, and Chamber-B focused on LTA-8, the equally important checkout of the Lunar Module Test Article.

The LM contract was awarded to the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation on January 14, 1963. In addition to 15 flight vehicles, the company planned to build several mockups and test modules for a variety of support roles. 10 Lunar Module Test Articles (LTA's) were planned for various test programmes. LTA-7 was slated for the environmental qualification test article and would be mated to the CSM and tested in the SESL in Houston. LTA-8 and LTA-9 were were reserved for a pair of free-flying LM trainers. When Grumman cancelled LTA's 7 and 9, LTA-8 became the environmental qualification test vehicle.

Assembly of LTA-8 begun at the Grumman plant in September 1965. The vehicle closely resembled the final design configuration of LM-3 that would be flown on Apollo-9 in late 1968. When construction of LTA-8 was complete in the spring of 1967 the vehicle was subjected to a thorough final acceptance test. Then the ascent and descent stages were de-mated and shipped to Houston were they arrived on September 24, 1967. There the two stages were mated again and the landing gear was attached and LTA-8 was placed in Chamber-B of the SESL. (Originaly the LTA-8 programme was scheduled to begin in March 1967 but the Apollo-1 fire in January of that year delayed the test, the LM was also subjected to a thorough fire safety review during 1967).

The LTA-8 tests were held in May and June 1968 and were very succesfull. Jim Irwin called the LTA-8 test "almost more rewarding" than his trip to the Moon in 1971. In 1970 the LTA-8 descent stage, together with the ascent stage of the unflown LM-2, spent several months at the Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan. Upon return the LTA-8 ascent and descent stages were reunited and put on display at the JSC visitor center where they can still be seen today.

Text: Ed Hengeveld, Spaceflight magazine, April 2000

The Crew / The Artwork

In early 1967 astronauts Jim Irwin and John Bull, who both had joined the astronaut corps in 1966, were named as crew for the LTA-8. Commander Irwin and Lunar Module Pilot Bull wore a mission patch on their spacesuits. It showed the designation LTA-8 and a representation of the LM, as well as the crewmen's surnames. Below it said "Chamber-B" the place were it would all happen. Irwin and Bull both had back-up's to minimise delays when one of the crewmen was unavailable, Glenn Kingsley and Gerry Gibbons both Grumman consulting pilots were back-up for LTA-8.

Before the real test John Bull developed a medical problem, a sinus condition for wich there was no name and no cure, acording to a NASA doctor. Getting in and out of the vacuum chamber under constantly changing pressure conditions made the symptoms worse and Bull was removed from the LTA-8 crew. He was replaced by Gerry Gibbons. (the LTA-8 patch did not change). On July 16, 1968 Bull's resignation from the astronaut corps was announced.

Text: Ed Hengeveld, Spaceflight magazine, April 2000

Spot the Patch !!!

Astronauts Jim Irwin and Gerry Gibbons don presuresuits prior to entering Chamber-B at MSC's SESL in Building 32 for a dry run for the LTA-8 test on May 2, 1968.