Landing the Space Shuttle is hard enough as it is

I was at The Museum of Flight and was waiting my turn at the Space Shuttle landing simulator. A six-year-old settled into the control seat, and as the simulation began I heard him ask his father, "Where are the bad guys?"

I'm pretty sure the Space Shuttle doesn't come with onboard missiles.

That didn't stop the kid from pressing the trigger on the joystick a lot, though.

By the way, I cratered the Space Shuttle.

Comments (17)
  1. James Schend says:

    The one in Armageddeon had an armored car with a Vulcan. Of course, you couldn’t use that in flight without shooting up the cargo bay.

    (It also raises the question: what exactly did they expect to find on the asteroid in that movie? Nazis?)

  2. Brandon says:

    Fun story, those simulators are actually harder than the "real thing". Of course, I don’t know what the actual real thing is like. But I have had the opportunity to land the full-motion cockpit simulator at Johnson Space Center, which is used for astronaut training. The flight model the "game" you played seems to introduce porpoising quite frequently and requires a lot of pitch movement to dampen out. The "real thing" is much more stable, and consequently far easier to land. I’ve done it with several people that have never even flown flight sim video games before, and they were able to successfully land it on the first try.

    It’s quite easy if the HUD is working, because you just keep the crosshairs in the diamond and the computer tells you exactly where to go. :)

  3. Steve C says:

    Wow, talk about a coincidence – I watched Space Cowboys last night (great movie, btw) and for those who’ve never seen it, a main plot point involves attempting to land the space shuttle without on-board computers. It’s a flying brick.

  4. I worked on the Space Shuttle flight simulators some 30 years ago (as an employee of Link Simulations, one of the three major contractors — along with IBM and Ford – on the simulators). I never got to fly the motion-base simulator (sigh), but I did fly the fixed-base simulator a few times. On one such occasion, I attempted to do an inverted loop and bring the Shuttle back to the landing strip. I crashed horribly. :-) ..bruce..

  5. Keith Farmer says:

    Anyone remember the shuttle sim from the early 90s, which worked in real time?

    .. starting from leaving the VAB on the crawler?

  6. Nick says:

    "I’m pretty sure the Space Shuttle doesn’t come with onboard missiles."

    And such an obvious design flaw.

  7. Drak says:


    You mean ‘Shuttle’?


    Played it quite a bit. The smoke was awesome for those days :). Never got past the EVA though as somehow I couldn’t control the suit properly.

  8. Worf says:

    I believe X-Plane has a simulation of landing the shuttle…

    But, it’s a flying brick, and the autopilot does a lot of the grunt work. It worked so well that it compensated for the hole in the wing on Columbia.

    And never to miss a Halo reference… Sgt. Johnson commented how well Master Chief ‘flew’. I think it went "(thump as Master Chief lands on the Pelican) For a brick, he flew pretty good!"

  9. Joseph Koss says:

    Required Douglas Adams quote:

    "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t."

  10. Of course, there was the alleged military Space Shuttle (probably born out of confusion over the Air Force’s Shuttle; they were originally going to be allowed launch one from Vandenburg for their classified payloads; it never happened).

    The Almaz Soviet military space station (a modified Salyut), though, did indeed have a gun. There was some complex messing with rockets so that the gun firing didn’t effect its overall velocity.

  11. Oh, and the last manned Almaz (Saluyt 5) may have had missiles!

  12. DWalker says:

    I flew a real, actual, 707 simulator once, which was used for training pilots at a major airline.  This (old) jet airliner had two engines under each wing.  

    Each time I tried to taxi to take off, the plane would slowly spin around.  The part-time instructor who was giving me the tour finally realized that I had neglected to power up two of the engines.  The simulator was so real that it knew that only two engines were thrusting; hence the off-center propulsion.

    I finally took off, flew around a while, and came in for a hard landing.  The auto voice in the cockpit recommended that I "go around" to try the landing again, but the instructor said "oh, go ahead and land it".  There was a hard bump and then I slowly skidded off the runway.  Fun times!

    I also toured the maintenance hangar, and went inside a brand new 747 (to the first-class lounge upstairs).  It’s the only time I have been on, or in, a 747…

  13. Lucas says:

    I remember playing the 80’s game ‘Orbiter’ as a kid, which was a crude simulator of the space shuttle allowing users to take part in everything from the pre-launch checks to landing the shuttle in one of four different landing sites, along with a handful of missions to complete, usually involving deployment or testing of some satellite. The manual was rather thick.

    I clearly remember one of the panels full of buttons and such was labelled ‘weapons’, and there was at least one mission to test-fire them. Not sure whether they were missiles.

  14. Lorenzo says:

    When some months ago I visited Microsoft offices in Redmond as a business guest of the ABU, I visited also The Museum of Flight in Seattle and also I cratered the Space Shuttle…

    By the way, the museum was very nice, as well as Seattle and Redmond surroundings. And the Starbucks coffee at Microsoft kitchenettes was very very good (that might sound strange because I’m from Italy, but I like so much Starbucks’ coffee).

    Any chance to meet you when I’ll come back in Redmond later this year?

  15. Jeffrey Cornish says:

    The community who design add-ons for Martin Schwieger’s Orbiter Simulator ( have some very nice and challenging to fly Space Shuttle add ons.

  16. Derlin says:

    I remember playing this shuttle simulator on our CoCo II.  The version I played was in color instead of B/W, but it still wasn’t many colors. :-)

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