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A work of Art: Apollo Era Technology Used Everyday

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posted on Apr, 25 2010 @ 07:41 PM
I know humans take things for granted, as for most of us, we tend to be complacent and forget the things that we have. Or how lives our lives could be quite different. Now standing back and taking a good look at the history of technology and advancement, there is little appreciation of the 1960's and the race to land man upon the surface of the moon.

Not only do you use Apollo era technology everyday, without a doubt the space race as we know it has shaped the Earth completely, if Apollo had not been successful, companies like Intel, would not have formed, spawning competitors like AMD.

In fact, if that space race hadn't of happened, we wouldn't most likely have the ability to communicate this point of view, on the medium at hand. Talking cryptic am I? Let me explain.

Apollo project, manned missions to the moon has influenced integreted circuit designs in the 1960's, therefore evolving the transistor into what it has become today, modern electronics.

Most do not realize the implications that Apollo has had upon the surface of Earth. You are using Apollo Era Technology today, without reservation!

To view this article here in the present state the document is in, Forum, the INTERNET, supported by millions of computers, like the one your using [to View], has billions of integrated circuits. Correct?

Thus, the philosophy of the computer is solely about the evolution of the integrated circuit.

We would not be able to do the things that we are or have been without the dedication to better the transistor. The modern computer CPU is compiled of billions of transistors together with the ability handle multiple tasks at one time.

Where did this technology come from? The Apollo Guidance Computer, OR Command Module Computer.

Of course the integrated circuit was in development before NASA was reaching for the Moon as noted below:

The concept of the vacuum tube tube is still one amazing feat today. The many names of early scientists, Edison, Tesla and others that was working with these concepts. The light bulb is the most common form of vacuum tube known. These ideas and inventions spawned new ways of thinking; like Colossus during WWII that could break Lorenz Code of the Germans in hours instead of weeks using 2000 tubes, unlike the 150 of its predicessor. It is amazing to read about systems that had 18-20 thousand tubes in computers. Then to read that tubes in these systems had an life time expectancy of a few hours! Obviously there was positives and negatives to the use of vacuum tubes.

During WWII radar was an all important technology that had proven itself. Many had been seeking the best ways to design radar systems that were small, deployable and reliable. William Shockley a scientistat at Bell Labs took leave In May 1942 to become a research director at Columbia University's Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Group.

Interestingly enough: In July 1945, the War Department asked Shockley to prepare a report on the question of probable casualties from an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Shockley concluded:

If the study shows that the behavior of nations in all historical cases comparable to Japan's has in fact been invariably consistent with the behavior of the troops in battle, then it means that the Japanese dead and ineffectives at the time of the defeat will exceed the corresponding number for the Germans. In other words, we shall probably have to kill at least 5 to 10 million Japanese. This might cost us between 1.7 and 4 million casualties including 400,000 to 800,000 killed.

We know the results of this report, since there was no invasion. Moving on, after the war a few years later...

The Point-contact transistor, the first solid state transistor was made by bell labratory on December 16, 1947 by William Shockley.

Evolution and Advancement of the Integrated Circuit:

The first IC design actually about the same time, two men had been thinking of the IC, transistors were in most applications of the day, from radios to phones and also computers.

  • First to apply his design was Jack Kilby, in 1958 whose IC circuit was made out of Germanium, a semiconductor.
  • About a half year later, Robert Noyce, of Fairchild Semiconductor had completed a IC design that used silicon.

This company Fairchild Semiconductor, would be one of the major component suppliers to NASA.

Soon there was great demand for an effective replacement of the gigantic vacuum tube systems that had been assembled. Literally taking up stories of buildings, for computers of the days. Now you really cannot launch a office building into space, well ok the Saturn V was an 36 story building, but not full of offices!

The major issues with spaceflight is [I]WEIGHT, WEIGHT, WEIGHT[/I], the cube of weight as it has been known. For every amount of mass you need in orbit it takes the cube of that said mass in fuel to propel that mass to escape velocity, thereby achieving orbit. Plus the structure to house the 'mass'. The transistor was becoming an obvious answer to spaceflights needs of computations. Smaller designs, able to be tightly packed, producing alot less wasted energy, as in the vacuum tube heaters. Yet one thing remained how to make the transistor more powerful and capable.

How to make the transistion?

[edit on 25-4-2010 by theability]

posted on Apr, 25 2010 @ 07:42 PM
Defining the Concept of Control

Where are we going again? To mars? The moon? Why can't I just blast myself that way? Why not take the family car?

I'll tell you a little story about a lazy man Inertia. Son of Sir Issac Newton. The lazy man did not want to be bothered, so tended to be still, till forces acted upon him. The classical views of momentum. If you just decide to blast yourself that way, that is exaclty were you'll continue to go, till something changes inertia along the way. I don't think that we'd want to be roming the heavens for all time, because we didn't pay attention to fundamentals of orbital mechanics. Developing the concept of controlling flight, through the air, through space, isn't as easy as it sounds.

Define control; to direct, to hold in restraint, check. One that controls; a controlling agent, or device.

The Man in the Can
Do you remember this piece of history when the Original Mercury Seven Astronauts talked about spam in a can? The same reference is used here: Why are we in this damn can? What are you expecting me to do, Nothing???? What are you going to do with astronaut, once he is in the can? How will he survive, what steps need to be implemented to ensure survival? What is the best way to have harmonry with equilibrium throughout flight philosophies and systems within the flying can, sorry spacecraft? In reality, the only difference between a can and a spacecraft is control. Now will this Man tolerate the demands requested by these situations?

Why the Astronaut is Tenth on the List
Yes of course the astronauts are tenth on the list, since they need systems to survive, you better have those systems high on those importance levels!

Think of this:
There was for obvious reasons large amounts of thought going towards this list, the list of what equipement is needed to make sure the spacecraft does what it is intentionally designed. Which is to be Launched from zero motion off earth, reaching speeds of 7.5miles/sec! Following predefined path into orbit carrying the knowledge of how to do this of course. Plus maintain a 1000's of parameters and monitor sensors, way over what humans could tolerate. Like Abort Modes, at times working at speeds of 1/1000th of second. Once achieving orbit, display orbit information, based upon predicted trajectories. Next have the stable base which to orient the platform, or inertial reference system to local horizon. Also to know where the intended path to the moon should be to that reference, note position, correct any deviations. Then preform critical burn manuevers, resulting in speeds in excess 24,000ft/sec. And keep the spacecraft, oriented precisely as not to tumble and drift off, or have a infinity trajectory into the surface of the moon. I could go on forever here.

Now if you look at that last paragraph, note once is there a note that Astronaut had to be in the craft, as we know they don't have to be in the craft at all. Then we can see why the men that occupy the ship are last of importance, since if the ship they are on, fails, it makes no difference about them being first priority. An obvious example of this Was the Apollo I disaster. The spacecraft must function first, above all things!

A healthy spacecraft means a healthy crew.

Now think of this, why not the Astronauts? Simple, if you cannot control where you are going, PRECISELY, your dead, right? If you cannot Follow the trajectory needed to achieve results, again which is to land upon the Lunar surface and return safely, this would be a suicide mission without say.You'll go drifting off into infinity! Or crash into something BIG!
So defining the most important system on the spacecraft, is the Control System, or Command Module Computer CMC. With out this vital system, there is no mission!

Born from this was Primary Guidance and Navigation Control System.

[edit on 25-4-2010 by theability]

posted on Apr, 25 2010 @ 07:43 PM
The answer was the CMC

With the beginning of the leap for the Moon, one huge issue remained, how to get there, land, then get back? Safely! The answer was, build an Autopilot! There was nothing close available at the time and day. Something that can take all the physics constants, math and arithmetic computations. Sun and planets, stellar Ephemeris and store all the data. Plus have an ability to oversee the Command and Service/Lunar Modules health during the course of the journey. No wonder NASA asked MIT to help them out!!! Yet again in a strange way, the MIT thinkers, had been on the job, already for quite awhile!

Here might be a reason why:

October 18 1962 NASA Headquarters announced the selection of five organizations for contract negotiations totaling $60 million for the development,
fabrication, and testing of LEM guidance and navigation equipment: (1) MIT, overall direction; (2) Raytheon, LEM guidance computer; (3) AC Spark Plug, inertial measurement unit, gyroscopes, navigation base, power and servo assembly, coupling display unit, and assembly and testing of the complete guidance and navigation system; (4) Kollsman Instrument Corporation, scanning telescope, sextant, and map and data viewer; and (5) Sperry Gyroscope Company, accelerometers. (All five had responsibility for similar equipment for the CSM as well. See Vol. I, August 9, 1961, and May 8, 1962.)

MIT Instrumentation and Charles Stark Draper:
"The LAB" as it was known had been doing celestial mechanics for trips to Mars, not the Moon. In fact MIT think-tank had been doing computations for the trip to the red planet since 1958. The Amount of thought that had been placed previously, with regard to orbital mechanics and various theories to reach Mars, had been in work awhile before demands by NASA on "The Lab" for Lunar trajectories. Thereby increasing the direction and ability to achieve those demands needed by NASA for GNC computer, or Auto-Pilot.

To a great extent, lunar navigation development relied on such newcomers in the field as computers and a worldwide tracking and communications network. By the 1960s, the electronic computer had become an integral tool of science, technology, and business. Without its capacities for memorizing, calculating, comparing, and displaying astronomical amounts of data, the lunar landing program would have been impossible.
Source Here

Impossible was the word used, by Ph. D's at MIT no less, without Computers!

Companies that Contributed to the Apollo Guidance Computer Construction:

  • Raytheon:The history of this company is a whole Thread unto itself!
  • AC Spark Plug [yes that is right]: "AC Spark Plug Becomes Prime Contractor for Production of Apollo Guidance and Navigation System," June 20, 1964; MSC, "Weekly Activity Report for the Office of the Associate Administrator, Manned Space Flight, July 19-25, 1964," p. 3,
  • Fairchild Semiconductor: Produced "micro logic" RTL (Resistor-Transistor-Logic) used in the Apollo Guidance Computer.
  • Philco-Ford: Interesting that in 1906 These Guys [Philco] were producing batteries for Electric Cars! Then ford buys them out?

  • MIT Instrumentation Lab, AKA "The Lab"

In other words the Command Module Computer was born, in theory.

Now a side note here:
It does no good to launch a can with men toward the moon right, obviously they'd never survive and the mission would be an huge mistake! To become a spacecraft it needs: Guidance Navigation and Control ability. The Second most important issue to overcome, that will inclusively become number one for obvious reasons: POWER!

Can the Computer run without power? Absolutely NOT! So again this Auto-pilot, must be powered redundantly. This the thread where I speak about power 4 electrons.

CMC or AGC Defined basically
The basis of PGNCS is simple, CONTROL of the spacecraft and ability to predict trajectories, by applying various orbital mechanics theories.

The Apollo Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System PGNCS (pronounced pings) was a self-contained inertial guidance system that allowed Apollo spacecraft to carry out their missions when communications with Earth were interrupted, either as expected, when the spacecraft were behind the moon, or in case of a communications failure.

As noted from Primary Guidance and Navigation

The Apollo Primary Guidance Navigation and Control System (PGNCS) provides capability for the following:

  • Intertial velocity and position (state vector) computation
  • Opitical and inertial measurement control
  • Spacecraft attitude measurement control
  • Generation of guidance commands during CSM-powered flight and CSM atmospheric entry.

Simply stating the equipment for the PGNCS:
The Guidance an Navigation subsystems: Attitude Reference, Attitude Control, Thrust and Thrust Vector Control.

  • The Inertial subsystem ISS
  • The Computer subsystem or CSS
  • The Optics subsystem or OSS

This CMC, in conjucntion with, ISS, the OSS: is a reference to trajectories being measured and sensed. Then compared to predictions of these events as figured out by the Manned Space flight Network orMSFN. Thus computing commands for various tasks, orient spacecraft to local horizon, with use of angles from astronomical sightings with the Scanning Telescope SCT and The Space Sextent. Then must interface with the Human's on board the spacecraft, through the DSKY. [Acronym
for "Display and Keyboard"]

The CMC Computer-Autopilot is in direct UPLINK with NASA Houston, and can receive new trajectory info that uses the erasable memory. Everything that the CMC needs is in the Fixed Memory Module, made EXACTLY for the the Flight being flown, so all parameters were calculated based upon total mission. Example, Apollo 11 landing on the Sea of Tranquility, that Fixed Memory Module is built differently than say, Apollo 17 Fixed Memory Module made for Landing at Taurus-Littrow.

Instruction Set: Approximately 20 instructions;
100 noun-verb pairs, data up to triple-precision
Word Length: 16 bits (14 bits + sign + parity)
Memory: ROM (rope core) 36K words; RAM (core) 2K words
Disk: None
I/O: DSKY (two per spacecraft)
Performance: approx. Add time - 20us
Basic machine cycle: 2.048 MHz
Technology: RTL bipolar logic (flat pack)
Size: AGC - 24" x 12.5" x 6" (HWD); DSKY - 8" x 8" x 7" (HWD)
Weight: AGC - 70 lbs; DSKY - 17.5 lbs
Number produced: AGC - 75; DSKY: 138
Cost: Unknown.
Power consumption: Operating: 70W @ 28VDC; Standby 15.0 watts

They were used the same design on the LM for obvious reasons, why have two computer designs? Another computer design throws in a lot of complexity and unknowns. Too big of risk, that they just perfected a slow, less powerful Digital Auto-pilot of the day, simple design that became the Command Module Computer[CMC] or the Primary Guidance Navigation Control System or PGNCS.

[edit on 25-4-2010 by theability]

posted on Apr, 25 2010 @ 07:45 PM
The CMC or AGC Becomes

This Digital Auto-pilot as the Apollo Guidance Computer become, is actually the basic design of the F8 Flight Computer. This was a revolutionary change in flight hardware for planes and jet aircraft. True fly-by-wire had been achieved. That soon would become the General Purpose Computer or GPC for the Space Shuttle IBM AP-101.
The shuttle would never would have been born without the design of a true fly by wire Digital autopilot, used on Apollo Missions to the Moon.

Computers Take Flight
Fly By Wire

Design impact and future evolution of the Transistor

Now you might ask how this all had any effect on technology today? The demand, itself caused huge effects in design and impacted the future of the transistor directly. Demand caused new ways to expand the density of the transistors on a single chip [IC], so that smaller designs were able to producing better results, and less expensive at that.

Now in the early 1960's NASA and the Military [Polaris and Minutemen Missile Programs] were purchasing almost all of these Chips,literally BUYING THEM ALL! Resulting in a decrease in cost of Integrated circuits from 1961 at $1000 per chip, in a few short years, dropped to $25.00 each, for even better designs of the day.

Interesting that the current developments in Military was the need for a Lightweight guidance system for Minutemen Missiles. The evolution of Technologies in the 1960's was quite exponential, if you follow Moore's Law derived from the number and increase in chip density and the acceleration of new designs on future technology. This is what directly effect us today, demand and changes in transistor density.

Amazingly, every single microprocessor on Earth used by common man is based upon 1960's Apollo and Department of Defense designs and demands on Integrated Ciruit evolution.

Billions upon billions of Dollars has gone to making the transistor into the magnificant technology it is today. How would you be connect to the internet without the huge spending on CPU research and development?

One thing to mention before closing out, is that your connected to the Internet, another descendant of Apollo based technology ARPANET.

The history of ARPANET is Here


Although man was searching for Integrated Circuit before the reach for the Moon, the incredible demands on technology by spacecraft research and development, defined specifically the evolution of the transistor, to become the would of electronics we see and use everyday today.

[edit on 25-4-2010 by theability]

posted on Apr, 26 2010 @ 04:07 PM
integrated circuit and magnetic cards were used during WW2 for... the logistic of the concentration camps too !

But for sure, thank to the space program to reduce their size and cost and thanks to the defense too !

posted on Apr, 26 2010 @ 05:23 PM
reply to post by Terviseks

The computers used during WWII were analog though right? Like colussus?

The Lorenz code was broke by Colussus a beautiful machine!

posted on Apr, 26 2010 @ 06:47 PM
I was waiting for this thread ! I guess I missed it.

Good job

Most of them I was not aware they were developed during and for the Apollo project.

posted on Apr, 26 2010 @ 07:00 PM
reply to post by Sinter Klaas

I thank you for the reply this thread has been dead, and I put alot of effort forth.

There was alot of work into such a small piece!

posted on Apr, 26 2010 @ 07:03 PM
reply to post by theability

Always a waste when it is unnoticed. I can relate.

posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 06:14 PM
Thank you for the information. I learned quite a bit.

posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 06:19 PM
reply to post by staple

I hope it was informative, that was the idea!

posted on Apr, 29 2010 @ 05:24 PM
I can't believe this thread stays death

I'm a bit of A - Technical and would have loved to see this discussed.
So a little bump for your thread.

posted on Apr, 29 2010 @ 06:44 PM
reply to post by Sinter Klaas

I find that the Space section has had a few days of no

Thanks SK!

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