Electromechanical Lunar Lander

One of the smash hits of the 1970s arcade was Atari’s Lunar Lander. A landing craft in orbit around a moon would descend slowly towards the surface, and through attitude and thrust controls the player had the aim of bringing it safely in to land. Many a quarter would have been poured into the slot by eager gamers wanting to demonstrate their suitability for astronaut service.

It was to this game that [Chris Fenton] turned when he was looking for inspiration for the 2016 NYCResistor Interactive show, and the result was a Lunar Lander game with a difference, one in which the gameplay was enacted through a physical lander and lunar surface. In this case the moon in question is a papier-mâché-covered inflatable ball, and the lander is a 3D-printed model on the end of a lead screw. Control is provided by an Arduino, with a rough facsimile of the original control panel and a set of microswitches on the model to detect a crash or a safe landing.

The result is a surprisingly playable game, as can be seen from the video below the break.

We’ve brought you more than one Lunar Lander game over the years. There was this plot of all the game trajectories taken on an individual cabinet, and of more relevance to this project, and another physical version of the game.

24 thoughts on “Electromechanical Lunar Lander

  1. George Lucas would have been proud. My first Lunar Lander experience was at a teletype terminal accessing the Kiewit computer center at UNH. You would start the game, type in the amount of burn in seconds, get a altitude/velocity status and enter your next burn. It was fiendishly hard. Best part was the yellow paper roll you could tear off to memorialize your adventures. More fun than the dating program that never seemed to return any compatible matches.

    1. I found an old BASIC version and adapted it to whatever BASIC I had for a Xerox 820-II. Also ported it to TI BASIC.

      Wasn’t too difficult, just making some changes for command formatting and syntax differences. After getting them working I bloated up the code inserting a lot of funny reports for failure based on impact speed.

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