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IBM Mainframe Assists Apollo 11 Landing


The Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins into space relied on a three-foot high, 21-foot diameter ring to get the astronauts safely on course to the moon. Designed by NASA and built and programmed by IBM, the Saturn instrument unit was the computer nerve center for the launch vehicle. After less than six hours of measuring key functions, radioing on-board activity to Earth, and computing guidance and engine control, the unit completed its life's work. At that point, when the third-stage Saturn V engine was expended, this unique computer ring was turned loose to orbit the Sun.

 
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An IBM System/360 (Model 75) processed the data for the first lunar landing 240,000 miles away from the moon at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

 

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NASA employed five System/360s for the Apollo 11 mission. The same computer later calculated the liftoff data needed by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin to rendezvous back with the command module piloted by Michael Collins for the flight back to Earth.
 

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Forty years later, IBM still plays a key role in space exploration. Fore more information about IBM and space flight, visit http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/space/space_reference.html


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