When President John F. Kennedy made the decision to land a man on the moon, NASA had to develop new techniques to make such an accomplishment possible. One of the main challenges faced by engineers was finding a means by which to recreate lunar conditions here on Earth. The design of this research center was intended to do just that. Data gathered during the tests conducted at Langley indicated that it would indeed be possible for astronauts to master the skills necessary to land the LEM on the moon.
The facility allowed astronauts to practice flying a full-scale Lunar
Excursion Module Simulator (LEMS). The LEMS was a device which was suspended from the gantry via an
overhead bridge crane. Cables were attached to the module by a gimbal system that allowed for freedom of motion in pitch, roll, and yaw. Today, the LEMS can be viewed at the Virginia Air and Space Center.
In addition to flight practice, the Lunar Landing Research Facility was also utilized as a lunar walking simulator. Astronauts were suspended at an angle by slings and cables attached to a trolly that traveled along an overhead track. Fill dirt resembling the lunar surface covered the base of the structure. This exercise was intended to prepare the astronauts for the reduced gravity on the surface of the moon.
In 1974 the Lunar Landing Research Facility was renamed the Impact Dynamics Research Facility (IDRF) and served to research aircraft crashes. The facility was temporarily closed in 2003 and slated for demolition owing to lack of funding. However, in 2004, NASA adapted the site for the purpose of providing support for its Constellation program. The renamed Landing and Impact Research Facility (LandIR), re-opened in 2005, was to conduct landing
tests for the Crew Exploration Vehicle
(CEV) Orion. Though the Constellation project was cancelled, the LandIR continued performing impact testing, owing to plans to use the CEV to service the International Space Station.
The Lunar Landing Research Facility was added to NRHP on October 3, 1985, designated a NHL on October 3, 1985, and designated a VLR on
February 18, 1986 for its critical role in the United States space program.