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"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven

Space Flight Simulator  
  Very early description of a way to practice flying in space while still on Earth.  

If you have never piloted a spacecraft, what is the best way to get some practice in before lift-off? You need a simulator, of course.

He'd been training for just this morning's effort since before the Platform's launching. There was a great box swinging in twenty-foot gimbal rings over in the Shed. There were motors and projectors and over two thousand vacuum tubes, relays and electronic units. It was a space flight simulator—a descendant of the Link trainer which once taught plane pilots how to fly. But this offered the problems and the sensations of rocketship control, and for many hours every day Joe and the three members of his crew had labored in it. The simulator duplicated every sight and sound and feeling—all but heavy acceleration—to be experienced in the take-off of a rocketship to space. The similitude of flight was utterly convincing. Sometimes it was appallingly so when emergencies and catastrophes and calamities were staged in horrifying detail for them to learn to respond to. In six weeks they'd learned how to handle a spaceship so far as anybody could learn on solid ground—if the simulator was correctly built. Nobody could be sure about that. But it was the best training that could be devised.
From Space Tug, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Not known in 1953
Additional resources -

Flight simulators were around in simple form as early as 1910; complex electro-mechanical models that simulated many aircraft functions came soon after.

The early simulator referred by the author is the the Link Trainer, developed in the 1930s. The main impetus was the search for a way to teach new pilots how to fly by Instrument flight rules. Former organ builder Edwin Albert Link used his knowledge of pumps, valves, and bellows to create a flight simulator that responded to the pilot's controls and gave an accurate reading on the avionics.

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