Armstrong’s Close Call

Neil Armstrong ejects from the lunar landing research vehicle in May 1968. (1:32)

On May 6, 1968, more than a year before his moon landing, Neil Armstrong had a narrow escape in the lunar landing research vehicle (LLRV) at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, as seen in this silent film clip. On a simulated lunar descent, leaking propellant caused a total failure of his flight controls and forced an ejection. His only injury was a hard tongue bite. In his Armstrong biography First Man, author James Hansen recounts how astronaut Alan Bean saw Armstrong that afternoon at his desk in the astronaut office. Bean then heard colleagues in the hall talking about the accident, and asked them, “When did this happen?” About an hour ago, they replied. Bean returned to Armstrong and said, “I just heard the funniest story!” Armstrong said, “What?” “I heard that you bailed out of the LLTV an hour ago.” “Yeah, I did,” replied Armstrong. “I lost control and had to bail out of the darn thing.” “I can’t think of another person,” Bean recalls, “let alone another astronaut, who would have just gone back to his office after ejecting a fraction of a second before getting killed.” Video: NASA

Latest Videos

Preview thumbnail for video'What do Native American carvings in French World War I quarries mean?
What do Native American carvings in French World War I quarries mean? (2:53)
Preview thumbnail for video'What did World War I soldiers leave behind in their secret bunkers?
What did World War I soldiers leave behind in their secret bunkers? (2:47)
Preview thumbnail for video'How the massive ALMA antennas move in perfect unison
How the massive ALMA antennas move in perfect unison (1:53)
Preview thumbnail for video'These antennas weigh 100 tons each
These antennas weigh 100 tons each (2:18)
Preview thumbnail for video'The plane crash that claimed three rock legends
The plane crash that claimed three rock legends (2:37)
Preview thumbnail for video'Preparing for nuclear Armageddon
Preparing for nuclear Armageddon (1:55)
Preview thumbnail for video'Cranberries in New England
Cranberries in New England (1:23)
Preview thumbnail for video'Scandal in the Biosphere
Scandal in the Biosphere (2:26)
Preview thumbnail for video'Reptiles can’t fly. But this one glides like a pro.
Reptiles can’t fly. But this one glides like a pro. (1:43)