As we celebrate 50 years since Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the moon, we also hear about the terrifying experience that was trusting the first computer led spaceflight to land them safely. As a programmer, we often deal with emergencies, but nothing quite like this.
We’ve come a long way since the refrigerator-sized computer that controlled every aspect of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s nerve-wracking spaceflight—from task overloads to random restarts, unknown errors and the crucial decision to “Go” or “Abort” the many cryptic system messages they endured inflight and on the ground—it’s hard to believe that the mission was a success after all of that. Regardless of the many problems the system spewed out and the near misses and countless system crashes, it still led the way for groundbreaking, computer-controlled spaceflight that was quickly adopted by many, including the Navy’s F8 fighter jet.
Now, 50 years later as we reflect on that remarkable event, we can surely appreciate those programmers and those astronauts for the trust and bravery they had to have to complete that mission. From rooms filled with code printed on paper, and highlighters to debug, we realize how fortunate we are to be able to benefit from the technology we have at our fingertips as programmers today. As we’re speeding through the age of self-driving vehicles, smarter code, fallback systems, and tiny handheld devices, one thing will always remain the same, be it on paper or computer, the mission is always the flight to success!
By Hannah W
Front-end Web Developer