The Anonymous Widower

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 was the mission where the oxygen tank blew and they had to use the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) to bring the astronauts home.  It all came back to me after the program on BBC2 tonight.

What is not generally known is that the calculations were performed not on a digital computer, but on a PACE 231R analog computer, which was one of the greatest machines ever built.  NASA had two slaved together as the analog half of a hybrid simulator of the Apollo mission.  When Apollo 13 blew, they reprogrammed it to work out the trajectory that brought everyone home safely.

I used to work on a PACE 231R and know how easy it would have been with that machine to sort out all of the differential equations compared to the sort of digital machines we have today.

Without the analog machines, it may have been that Apollo 13 would have been more unlucky.

July 1, 2009 - Posted by | Computing | ,

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