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Virtual LM

A Pictorial Essay of the Engineering And Construction of the Apollo Lunar Module



Scott P Sullivan


S u m m a r y

Title, Description & Publisher: Virtual LM: A Pictorial Essay of the Engineering And Construction of the Apollo Lunar Module Apogee Books
ISBN: 1-894595-14-0
Media: 10" x 7" format, 256 semigloss pages, 3D CAD artwork and color photographs throughout
Price: $29.99 from Apogee Books
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: Great illustrations, lots of detail, superdetailing potential, bonus CD-ROM (when it works...)
Disadvantages: The CD-ROM is terribly buggy, needs proofreading
Recommendation: Recommended


Reviewed by Daryl Carpenter

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Back in 2003, Scott P. Sullivan produced Virtual Apollo which detailed the Apollo Command and Service Modules. While a decent enough book, it suffered from inaccurate exterior illustrations and some unrefined 3D models.

Virtual LM covers the Apollo Lunar Module, that spidery spacecraft that first landed men on the Moon.
The concept is pretty much the same: highly detailed, colorful CAD models, generated in PTC Pro Engineer, provide an in-depth look at the interior and exterior of the spacecraft.

Virtual LM is leagues ahead of it's predecessor. It's twice as large as Virtual Apollo, and contains almost 600 illustrations and computer models, compared to 200 for Apollo. The close-up views are far superior, showing small details like wiring, plumbing, structural beams, and so on. The text is more comprehensive, and the exterior views are far more accurate, having used David Week's excellent Apollo modeler's plans. There s simply no way one could absorb all of the material in one sitting.

The Descent Stage

Chapter one covers the descent stage, which housed the main propulsion system, the landing gear, and the astronauts' lunar surface equipment. First up is a series of exterior views of the spacecraft. The H and J-series LMs are shown from six sides in landing position. Next are six views of the LM stowed in it's launch vehicle adapter.

The first chapter covers the spacecraft's descent stage. Described first are the four "quads" used for storing equipment and supplies. Many illustrations are provided to show the operation of the scientific bay doors and MESA deployment assembly. Further models show the MESA itself, and the cable-and-lanyard ALSEP deployment system.

The Descent Propulsion System, pyrotechnic systems (including cutaways of the interstage umbilical and interstage connectors), plumbing and electrical, and the landing radar and covered next.

The largest (17 pages) section covers the landing gear assemblies. Each major assembly is shown in a number of close-ups and isometric views, along with cross-sections of the main struts and explanations of the extension sequence.

The J-series descent stage is described next, showing the differences with the H-series. The final section shows the assembly of the descent stage in 25 steps, and also details thermal protection and insulation.

The Ascent Stage

Chapter two covers the Ascent Stage; the astronaut's living quarters, so to speak. It begins with a series of exterior views, comparing the H and J-series LMs. It then details the reaction controls and the numerous antenna studded about the exterior.



Next up is an overview of the overhead docking window, and the triangular front windows, complete with exploded views showing each pane and mounting frame. We then move on to the interior pressure vessel. The egress hatch is shown, as well as overall views of the flight stations.

Each control panel, as well as the equipment stowage positions and attitude controllers, are shown in close-up. The docking system (drogue, docking targets, hatch) is covered next. Also detailed in this chapter are the Ascent Propulsion System and the environmental controls.

"Ascent Stage From the Ground Up" shows the assembly sequence in 25 steps, from the joining of the cabin segments to the application of thermal insulation and pyro paint. Next, are ten lightly-annotated cutaway views of the entire ascent stage. The final section describes the different types of thermal protection used on both stages.

The Lunar Roving Vehicle

Chapter Three describes the ubiquitous "moon buggy" used on Apollos 15 through 17. Once again, there are six exterior views. The bulk of this chapter actually covers the deployment system and step-by-step deployment and assembly illustrations.

The electrical system is illustrated, along with the drive and steering assemblies, and wheels. Further pages detail the center chassis, the displays and controls, and the equipment pallets.

The Portable Life Support System

The final chapter the covers the PLSS (the large backpack worn by moonwalking astronauts).



It starts out with several isometric views, and shows the interior components of the Oxygen Purge System, the PLSS, and the Remote Control Unit.


As with most Apogee Books titles, Virtual LM comes with a bonus CD-ROM with additional information.

This is the real hit-and-miss element of the book. While others have had no problems, it does not want to run smoothly on my system. The disc isprone to freezing up, crashing, or failing to open images. At one point the disc became so hot it was almost impossible to hold. Even after cleaning the CD several times, it still freezes up attempting to view an image. After much tedium, I finally managed to get it to run.

Here's what's on the CD-ROM:

  • 57 hi-res images of the Ascent Stage of LM Test Article-1 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum

  • 49 hi-res images of the Decent Stage of same craft

  • 61 hi-res images of LM Mission Simulator, also at the Cradle of Aviation There are also a number of PDF files on the CD-ROM:

  • Apollo 14 LM Activation Checklist

  • Apollo 14 LM Timeline Book

  • Apollo 15 LM Cue Cards

  • Apollo 15 LM Data Card Book

  • Apollo 16 LM Contingency Checklist

  • Apollo Operations Handbook: LM-6 And Subsequent:

  • Volume 1 Subsystems Data
    Apollo Operations Handbook: LM-5 And Subsequent:

  • Volume 2 Operational Procedures

Just as with the photographs, opening and viewing the PDF files is an absolute chore, and not really recommenced unless you enjoy repetitive whirring and grinding noises.





The nasty bonus CD-ROM aside, Virtual LM is an excellent visual reference guide to an historic spacecraft. The text could have used a bit of proof-reading (including one gutbuster involving "fecal wet wipes"!) I d recommend it to both beginning and hardcore space enthusiasts (mostly hardcore, if you can get the CD-ROM working!). The superdetailing and scratchbuilding potential for scale modelers is quite high, when one considers the myriad close-ups of important components.


I recently received an E-mail from Scott P. Sullivan announcing his intention to do a sort of "Virtual Classic Sci-Fi Spaceships". Let s hope he pulls through, and has a word with the Apogee Books quality control team while he's at it!


Review Copyright 2005 by Daryl Carpenter
This Page Created on 28 February, 2005
Last updated 28 February, 2005

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