Apollo 11 turns 45: A lunar landing anniversary retrospective
I know its a couple days off, but I really thought that people who were into science, history and space exploration would enjoy reading this piece by Lee Hutchinson.
On July 20, 1969, at about four minutes before 10:00pm Central Daylight Time, former naval aviator and test pilot Neil Armstrong became the first human being to stand on the surface of the Moon. About 20 minutes later, he was followed by Buzz Aldrin, an Air Force colonel with a PhD in astronautics from MIT (Aldrin had, quite literally, written the book on orbital rendezvous techniques). Armstrong and Aldrin’s landing was the culmination of almost a decade of scientific and engineering work by hundreds of thousands of people across the United States. Even though the lunar program’s goals were ultimately political, the Apollo project ranks as one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history.
The six successful Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972 still inspire awe today, almost half a century later. A big part of that awe comes from the fact that those voyages from the Earth to the Moon were accomplished with only the most basic of computing assistance. There were no supercomputers as we’d understand them today; although the computers that eventually powered the Apollo spacecraft were almost unbelievably advanced at the time, they are alarmingly primitive when viewed through the lens of 21st century computing.