Apollo Guidance Computer Activities

AGC: Conference 4 - Documents

Apollo Guidance Computer History Project

Fourth conference

September 6, 2002

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ALEXANDER BROWN: So, as you can see, I've collected a variety of documents. Again, if you're paging through the website, and you think that there are important things that I haven't found, do let me know. I can certainly go out and look for them. As we've mentioned, Draper has a lot of documents, but they're not very willing to allow us to go in there and poke around. They will give us documents, if we can give them chapter and verse as to, you know, the name of the document, the year and so forth.

ED COPPS: What's the purpose in having them?

ALEXANDER BROWN: Well, that's a good question. The suggestion is that they simply don't have the resources to make the library open to researchers like us. And they're also concerned about security and classification of these documents. And, I think, there's a certain amount of institutional reluctance to let people get their hands on these documents.

DAN LICKLY: I've heard that they're in a dirty old warehouse underneath the stairs, and they don't want anybody going in there, because it's not really filed in any way.

ALEXANDER BROWN: Oh, that's interesting.

DAN LICKLY: Something they should do some day is organize and clean those out. But some is classified and is restricted only to Draper employees. They told me I couldn't get in.

DAVID MINDELL: The issue for most of the stuff we're doing, I think, has less to do with the documents we actually want than whatever might be stored next to them or around them, that we're not going to access. It's a sort of an institutional culture thing. Although we have very good buy in from the top of Draper for this project. So we've been working this for a couple of years.

ALEXANDER BROWN: So, that’s the document archive. One of the other things that I've been doing that's kind of nice-- I have found some of the more interesting original documents. These are a set of memos I found over at the MIT Museum, Davy Hoag’s How-Did-We-Do memos, which were produced after most of the Apollo missions I’ve got. I've got four, five, six, eight, nine and a few other Apollo ones, and so I've put those up.

JOHN MILLER: Is this the Saturn Five launch?

DAN LICKLY: Yeah. It says Saturn Five up there.

JOHN MILLER: Is this the one that had the S-2 stage rocket go out on it?

DAN LICKLY: I think that was 502. I don't know which one, where it didn't burn and we had to--

JOHN GREEN: It lifted into orbit and any orbit will do.

DAN LICKLY: And then we--instead of knocking it out of the TLI burn, we had to do a forward burn to put it on the right--but I can't see it from here, whether it's 501 or 502?

DAVID MINDELL: The resulting 200 feet per second over-speed providing a more rigorous and successful atmospheric entry test for the heat shield.

DAN LICKLY: There, just like Microsoft. This is a feature. [laughter]

ED COPPS: That was a feature because--Alex, you and I had something to do with something called CALC MANEUV

ALEX KOSMALA: Oh, yes, indeed.

ED COPPS: In any case, I was assigned to a program, and I programmed it badly. It was actually one of the first things that I programmed in that business. And I got it so it would work pretty well and John Norton found a lot of holes and weak points in it, which I patched up and repaired. And then I did a lot more tests on it. In any case, it got to be pretty good, and that's just as a piece of program irrespective of whether it was the right thing to program.

But I want to get to the question of whether it was the right thing to program, because on this mission, the Goddamn thing was supposed to have launched and then as I recall, our vehicle was supposed to turn around and slow it down.

DAN LICKLY: Right. And do a TLI burn and then we were going to take over, and knock it out. You're right.

ED COPPS: Then it was supposed to do two or three other things And because the launch vehicle did the wrong thing, so to speak, CALC MANEUV was presented with a dozen things that it had never been conceived of happening. And it did every one of them. And I thought to myself, "Oh, my God! It actually worked. And it probably never worked again, because that was the last use of the Apollo, the Block One navigation system. And we moved on to the Block Two and CALC MANEUV was, first of all, a much simpler problem because of the design. And secondly, it was a much better program. The CALC MANEUV that I'm talking about passed into history, but in a glorious fashion.

DAN LICKLY: They did the burn and they were supposed to have already be 35,000 feet per second headed for the moon. Instead of that, they took over left in orbit and had to turn around and fire out, rather than retrograde.

Technological Change

site last updated 02-01-2003 by Alexander Brown