Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Well here it is, 40 years ago today Neil and Buzz had achieved the unthinkable only ten years earlier.

There has been much debate of course about the date of the anniversary, if you live in the US the date was July 20th, but here in the UK it is today. The reason being that the "first step" took place at 9:18pm EDT which related to 2.18am BST here in the UK.

The news thus hit the headlines on July 21st here, the day before my 7th birthday!

Anyway, it was nice to see Neil on TV last night attending some kind of event at NASA making a very rare appearance and speech.

Of course he was advised by Charles Lindberg to not give interviews or autographs, Charles being the first solo pilot to cross the atlantic (in 1927) had been his own "first man" of that generation and had paid the price of his fame when his infant son was kidnapped and murdered in 1932 amid a media frenzy across the globe.

Neil it seems heeded the advice of one of his childhood heroes.

It seems that after touching down at Tranquility Base Neil and Buzz had to first ensure that they could execute an emergency lift off while a "stay" "no stay" decision was being made back at Houston.

They were then scheduled for a rest prior to taking that first step but pursuaded Houston to let them cut that rest short.

The rest they say is history, one has to admire these men for their sheer bravery for stepping literally into the unknown, they could well have been swallowed up by quick sand or much worse.



  1. Mitch,

    It's good to read your new posts. I too was an avid fan of the Apollo program. I'm also amazed by the too little celebrated heroism of the astronauts.

    Here's an interesting link related to the Apollo technology: http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2009/07/apollo-11-missions-40th-anniversary-one.html


  2. Jeff, thanks for the link, takes me back a while but not as far back as then, assume it is assembler specific to the onboard cpu?

  3. Mitch,

    Keep following the links therein. There's a complete AGC emulation available, mission specific software included. Just add a command module (oh, and a Saturn V to get you there) and you too can visit our neighbor orb! :-) http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/

    To answer your question, yes, it's written in the assembly language for the block 2 machine designed and built by MIT. Block 2 was the major redesign the followed the Apollo 1 fire, as I suspect you know. Somebody must know the assembly, as the emulator is a relatively recent addition.

    There was apparently great debate within NASA about the wisdom of using MIT's machine, as opposed to IBM. IBM was the contractor of choice for much of the computing equipment used on the Saturn V. The block 2 AGC was the first use of integrated circuits in such an application. The web site has a lot of interesting information about the machine.


  4. Thanks for that Jeff, I recently found out that the DBMS that I wrote code for in my days as a mainframe programmer had in fact been developed by IBM to cater for the Bill Of Materials (BOM)for the Saturn V.

    The DBMS was called IMS (Information Management System which also included the TP monitoring system) and the language we used was PL1 with DL1 as the data access language. I used this in the early 1990's.

  5. Mitch,

    My mainframe days were logged on Control Data equipment. Most of my work is in systems, not so much database. The world of computing has shrunk, and I moved from 'big iron' to HP minicomputers and now firmware for ($2) embedded controllers. It's interesting how little real estate would be needed for the equivalent computing power of that used in Apollo today!

    I've never used PL1, but I was certainly aware of it. IBM machines were ideally suited for large database applications. The connection between IMS and Saturn is certainly interesting! I wonder how much of the large software systems, like that, had their roots in some government contract of the past?

    I hope you get to spend some time behind the eyepiece with some of the remaining summer evenings. In any case, enjoy your warm weather.


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