Software that lands you on the moon

Software that lands you on the moon

I had the rare treat to see an Apollo DSKY control pad used to control the lunar landing computer a few years back. I always wanted to know how it worked.

I can wonder no more, because Robert Wills introduces the amazing hardware and software that made up the Apollo Guidance Computer, walks you through the actual landing procedure step-by-step, and talks about the pioneering design principles that were used to make the landing software robust against any failure. He also explains the problems that occurred during the Apollo 11 landing, and shows you how the Apollo Guidance Computer played its part in saving the mission.

If you feel that isn’t cool enough – why not go download the software and look at the original printouts yourself?

If you want more information about the computer programming language, algorithms, and entire trip tour, watch this:

Finally, a early NASA technician managed to come across a pile of salvage that he recognized as old Apollo equipment. He bought the 2 tons of materials and in the following years, realized he had an actual Apollo guidance computer (likely used in the lab for testing/etc) and then got it working again!


He just recently did another talk on the topic with updated details

Update 2:

Another great program that shows off the Apollo computers operating and being manufactured.

1965 MIT Science Reporter television program featured the Apollo guidance computer and navigation equipment. Scientists and engineers Eldon Hall, Ramon Alonzo and Albert Hopkins (of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory) and Jack Poundstone (Raytheon Space Division in Waltham MA) explain and demonstrate key features of the instruments, and detail project challenges such as controlling the trajectory of the spacecraft, the operation of the onboard telescope, and the computer construction and its memory.

2 thoughts on “Software that lands you on the moon

  1. I enjoyed Robert’s talk. I have a comment, and would ask that you pass it along. I am propulsion engineer, and was surprised when he showed his settling thruster pointing laterally during the propellant settling maneuver. The outlet of the fuel tank should face aft, and so the aft-facing thrusters should have been used during to settle the propellant. (The fact that the spacecraft was sideways relative to the moon was irrelevant.) Thank you.

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