I failed to complete the chapter on ‘Simulation and Testing’ today, but will share the introductory paragraphs as part of #WorkingOutLoud. I hope to complete it tomorrow, or early next week.
Chapter 5: Simulation and Testing
There is one discipline that Apollo progressed with remarkable vigour: developing simulations to train and test the astronauts for what may happen, and testing their physical and mental prowess, to see how prepared they were for the challenge. In total, the Apollo astronauts spent around a third of their total training time in simulators . But all of this testing was in respect of a new domain: nobody was sure quite how the craft would behave, and nobody was certain how a human would stand up to the stresses and strains of space flight.
The technical simulators served two functions: to train astronauts on the correct functioning of systems, and collections of systems, and, secondly, to build resilience per the failure of these systems. Simulations thus tended towards the connected, or the dastardly, reflecting the dichotomy at the heart of the training: time on connected simulations allowed an astronaut to rehearse, and master, every aspect of the mission, in sequence, in an environment that as closely mirrored the expected reality as possible, time on the dastardly would test them in the ways to recover when things went wrong.
But things go wrong in innumerable ways: if the outcome of every simulation was failure, a crash, then that could be both disheartening, and counter productive. But if every simulation was too easy, or predictable, it would add no real resilience, broad capability, or learning.