The red bird has landed …

Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY

Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY

This is it.  That is all — A 16bit word computer (15 data + 1 parity), 2K Words magnetic core memory (RAM). 36K Words core rope memory (ROM).  4 Registers, including the program counter. All running at 2.048 MHz.

This computer controlled:

  1. DSKY – Display and Keyboard, shown in the image.
  2. Inertial  Measurement Unit (IMU)
  3. Hand Controller
  4. Rendezvous Radar
  5. Landing Radar
  6. Telemetry receiver
  7. Engine Command
  8. Reaction Control system
Simply put, on 20 July 1969 this unit was used to put a man on the moon during an approximately 3 days trip.

Today’s  iPhone 4S has 2 CPU cores, each running at 1GHz, + a GPU. It has 512 MB RAM + 64GB storage (flash). By a very rough comparison it is about x1000 times faster, has x128K times more RAM, and much more non-volatile storage.

And what is this awesome power used for?

In most cases, well… this:

On March 22, 2012 angry bird space was researched – in just 35 days iPhone4S units, and similar devices, have “launched” over 50 million copies of angry birds into (virtual) space…

The final cost of project Apollo  (1961-1972)  reported to congress as $25.4 billion in 1973, (Given the unknowns, James Webb gave an amazingly close estimate of @20 billion). This amount is  approximately $134 billion in  2013, or $11.2 billion annually. 

This is no small money. And yet the  annual revenue of Apple, the iPhone maker, is $169.4 billion, more than the entire Apollo program, the annual net profit is much less of course, “only” $37.7 billion – still over 3 times the annual cost of the Apollo program.

Was the Apollo program a bigger “leap to mankind” than the smartphone is? This I cannot answer – Personally I think that we don’t have a choice but to go to space much sooner than the the time sun will become a red giant or when a future captain Kirk starts exploring the galaxy – but for much more down-to-earth reason such as energy and minerals.   Other people have different opinions and sometimes very strong emotions as well on matters that involves big government spending.

Here are few points to think about:

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 a.k.a the bailout of the US financial system authorized the US treasury to spend $700 billions to buy mostly mortgage-backed security (toxic assets) – this is over five times the entire cost of the Apollo program.

Apple employs 72,800 direct full-time employees, and unknown number of people employed indirectly (many of them outside the US).  The Apollo program had 34,000 direct employees and 375,000 indirect employees in industry and universities in the US. The Apollo program also had direct positive impact on many industries.

Today universities have centers, faculty members, and undergraduate programs detected to computer games – such as Angry Bird. Computer games are a big business and there is serious research on the topic, from psychology to mathematics and technology.

Last but not least, I cannot imagine the courage it takes to sit at the top of a Saturn-V rocket that is about to  launch into space. In particular Apollo 8 crew,  Borman,
Lovell, and  Anders that were the first to leave earth orbit and orbit the moon, and of course Apollo 11 crew, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.  Not many are aware of the fact that the engine on the lunar module that takes the astronauts back to the command module orbiting the moon – could not be tested before the flight because of the corrosive fuel…

Apollo-8 launch live ABC broadcast:

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