In this historic photo from the U.S. space agency, the Lunar Landing Research Facility was no longer in use for its original purpose by 1972. The 400-foot high structure was swiftly modified to allow engineers to study the dynamics of aircraft crashes. The Impact Dynamics Research Facility is used to conduct crash testing of full- scale aircraft under controlled conditions. The aircraft are swung by cables from an A-frame structure that is approximately 400 ft. long and 230 foot high. The impact runway can be modified to simulate other grand crash environments, such as packed dirt, to meet a specific test requirement.
In 1972, NASA and the FAA embarked on a cooperative effort to develop technology for improved crashworthiness and passenger survivability in general aviation aircraft with little or no increase in weight and acceptable cost. Since then, NASA has "crashed" dozens of GA aircraft by using the lunar excursion module (LEM) facility originally built for the Apollo program.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).