Technology

The computer that put Americans on the moon was 25 million times weaker than the iPhone

Exactly 50 years ago, the American astronaut NeilArmstrong became the first person to set foot on the surface of the Earth’s satellite, the Moon. This event occurred during the Apollo 11 space mission, which lasted from July 16 to July 24, 1969. Of course, before the implementation of the first step, the astronauts had to land a huge spacecraft on the surface of the moon, and the on-board computer called the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) helped them a lot. This computer is truly amazing, because it was able to control the movement of the device, being much weaker than the modern iPhone.

Computer development was begun in the 1950syears, in the laboratory of the technological university of the american state of massachusetts. The team of engineers was faced with a seemingly impossible task — they needed to create a small computer that could fit inside the spacecraft and monitor its every movement. At that time, even huge computers the size of a cabinet could hardly cope with such complicated calculations.

Flight to the moon

Besides the fact that the computer was supposed to becompact, it had to consume a minimum of electricity - just like a regular light bulb. The fact is that the Apollo 11 had very little fuel, and energy savings were very important. With all this, the creators had to come up with a durable computer case, which would protect the internal components from vibrations and shocks that occur during the flight.

Computer Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)

The creation of a computer took a dozen years,it is therefore not surprising that by the time the final version was assembled, some of the technologies used in it were outdated. In the end, two AGC computers were developed, one of which was located in the command compartment of the Apollo 11, where there were chairs for all three astronauts, and the second in the lunar module, which sat on the surface of the Earth satellite.

Lunar module "Apollo 11"

Externally, the Apollo 11 board computer was similaron a calculator with two screens. The astronauts controlled it using the keyboard, entering two digits each, indicating the action and the part of the ship that is to perform it. How the astronauts interacted with the computer can be seen in the 1995 Apollo 13 film with Tom Hanks (the events that occurred in the film happened after the first landing of people on the Moon).

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Characteristics of the onboard computer "Apollo 11"

In terms of power, the computer of the spacecraftwas weaker than electronics installed in modern children's toys. It worked at a frequency of 2 megahertz, whereas processors installed on new computers operate at a frequency of about 3,000 megahertz. The amount of internal memory was 72 kilobytes - it is 70 times less than that of floppy disks (remember these square drives that were inserted into the drives of computers of the late 1990s?). Programs permanently stored in the computer’s permanent memory were stored.

Computer "Apollo 11" could remember less than a floppy disk

He could perform 40,000 operations per second, while the modern iPhone performs 5 trillion operations at the same time. It turns out that he was weaker than a smartphone 25 million times.

Computer error "Apollo 11"

The programs were written by a woman namedMargaret Hamilton, thanks to the work of which the Apollo 11 spacecraft once escaped a serious mistake when descending to the moon. The fact is that three minutes before the landing, the ship's equipment gave several alarms. It turned out that the computer began to try to perform more tasks than it could master, but the so-called asynchronous execution system developed by Margaret was able to restart the computer.

Hamilton and the source code for the Apollo 11

Next landing on the moon

As you can see, for landing the ship to the surfaceThe moon, in the last century, people did not need very powerful computers. The return of man to the moon can happen in the next 10 years. The space agency NASA wants to do this as part of the Artemis program and is already developing a landing module. The head of the company SpaceX wants to return people to the moon in 2023 - for this he wants to use the Starship spacecraft.

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