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How They Built it: The Software of Apollo 11

Jul 20, 2009, 23:04 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Todd R. Weiss)


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"It wasn’t open source in the sense we know today, but it was built for NASA under contract, then was tested, modified and fine-tuned by NASA engineers in ways that are similar to open source projects nowadays.

"“Well, in today's definition it was open source--the source code was publicly available” to mission engineers, said John “Jack” Garman, who was a 24-year-old NASA computer engineer when Apollo 11 lifted off July 16, 1969, on its way to the Moon. “But ‘open source’ in the Linux sense generally means that anyone can contribute additions and improvements, and of course that wasn't the case for the Apollo software.”

"Garman helped test and re-write the software before Apollo 11 ever left the ground, then continued to monitor it while it was used in the onboard computers. “The software was programmed on IBM punch cards. They had 80-columns and were ‘assembled’ to instruction binary on mainframes... and it took hours."

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