The computer that flew men to the moon

The computer that flew men to the moon

Back when computers were the size of freight-trucks, they developed one that could fly to and land on the moon. Here we are in the year 2020.

Here we are in the year 2020. It will always be remembered as the year that corona stopped the world. But in the midst of all this negative craziness, some positive things happened. One of them is SpaceX launching astronauts to the ISS, and bringing them back safely. It is an amazing achievement. But let’s not forget that more than 50 years ago, people landed on the moon! If that sounds way harder than flying circles around earth, that’s because it is.

One of the groundbreaking inventions that made the moonlanding possible were the computers that were on board the apollo spacecraft. Each mission carried three of them: one in the command module and two in the lander. For me this is the most exciting part of the entire program. This series of posts I will be focussing on this computer. My goal is that after reading my posts, you will understand why I think they are so awesome!

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Before we start talking about chips, bits and bytes, we first need a little context.

Apollo: born out of fear

This story begins in 1961. It was a weird time in America. The Russians are beating America in the space race. It started 4 years earlier when they launched sputnik: the first satellite. The Americans followed just a few months later. Then, last month, the first man in space. That was when America decided it would need to take drastic measures. It would take them a year to catch up on that milestone. Although you could say that they really didn’t because their flight was suborbital and lasted only 15 minutes. So Americans were lagging behind in space. But why was space suddenly so important? It had been there unexplored for millions of years, and it would not go anywhere. Why would anybody but space nerds be concerned about “who gets there first”?

history space computer-science development usa data science

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I would like to preface that the following articles outlining the history of computers by saying this is in no way an exhaustive history of the origin of computers.

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