NASA’s unsung heroes: The Apollo coders who put men on the moon (cover story PDF)

For this in-depth cover story, TechRepublic writer Nick Heath talked with pioneering software engineers about how they helped NASA launch astronauts into space, and bring them back again–pushing the boundaries of technology as they did it. This download provides the magazine version of the article as a free PDF for registered TechRepublic and ZDNet members. The online version of this story is available here.

From the story:

Homer Ahr had been asleep for 15 minutes when he got a call from his boss at Johnson Space Center.

“All he said was, ‘Homer, get into mission control as fast as you can.’ I didn’t have an idea of why I was going in there,” he said.

“Within 30 minutes at most I knew that they were truly in a life or death situation,” said Ahr.

Earlier that evening, Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert had brought NASA mission control to a standstill with the now famous statement, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

The Apollo 13 craft was more than 300,000 kilometers into its journey to the moon when an explosion ripped through the tiny capsule.

On that day in April 1970, with the vessel venting its precious supply of oxygen, NASA knew it had few options for getting the three astronauts on the stricken spacecraft home safely.

“From that realization on, all we did was do everything we could to get them back,” Ahr said.

“It’s sort of like being in the ER, you know? If you have to jam a needle into somebody’s chest to reactivate their heart, you just do it. You don’t think about what you’re doing. You just do it.”

To read the rest, download the PDF version.

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