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Apollo 11 - Flight Computer

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Apollo 11 And The !960's Computer With A 64 Kbyte Memory And 43 Khz Clock That Put Men On The Moon And Brought Them Home

By today's standards, the IT Nasa used in the Apollo manned lunar programme is pretty basic. But while they were no more powerful than a pocket calculator, these ingenious computer systems were able to guide astronauts across 356,000 km of space from the Earth to the Moon and return them safely.

The lunar programme led to the development of safety-critical systems and the practice of software engineering to program those systems. Much of this knowledge gleaned from the Apollo programme forms the basis of modern computing.

Apollo Guidance Computer

The lunar mission used a command module computer designed at MIT and built by Raytheon, which paved the way to "fly by wire" aircraft.

The so-called Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) used a real time operating system, which enabled astronauts to enter simple commands by typing in pairs of nouns and verbs, to control the spacecraft. It was more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons. It had approximately 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.

The instruction manual for the AGC shows the computer had a small set of machine code instructions, which were used to program the hardware to run various tasks the astronauts needed.

The AGC program, called Luminary, was coded in a language called Mac, (MIT Algebraic Compiler), which was then converted by hand into assembler language that the computer could understand. The assembler code was fed into the AGC using punch cards.

Amazingly, the code listing for the AGC program can be downloaded as a PDF file. There is also an equivalent program for the lunar lander.

The AGC was designed to be fault-tolerant and was able to run several sub programs in priority order. Each of these sub programs was given a time slot to use the computer's sparse resources. During the mission the AGC became overloaded and issued a "1202" alarm code.

Neil Armstrong asked Mission Control for clarification on the 1202 error. Jack Garman, a computer engineer at Nasa (pictured below, left), who worked on the Apollo Guidance Program Section, told mission control that the error could be ignored in this instance, which meant the mission could continue. Apollo 11 landed a few seconds later.

Experts cite the AGC as fundamental to the evolution of the integrated circuit. It is regarded as the first embedded computer.

The importance of this computer was highlighted in a lecture by astronaut David Scott who said: "If you have a basket ball and a baseball 14 feet apart, where the baseball represents the moon and the basketball represents the Earth, and you take a piece of paper sideways, the thinness of the paper would be the corridor you have to hit when you come back."

While the astronauts would probably have preferred to fly the spacecraft manually, only the AGC could provide the accuracy in navigation and control required to send them to the Moon and return them safely home again, independent of any Earth-based navigation system.

Along with the APG, mainframes were also heavily used in the Apollo programme. Over 3,500 IBM employees were involved, (pictured below). The Goddard Space Flight Center used IBM System/360 Model 75s for communications across Nasa and the spacecraft. IBM Huntsville designed and programmed the Saturn rocket instrument unit, while the Saturn launch computer at the Kennedy Space Center was operated by IBM.

An IBM System/360 Model 75 was also used at Nasa's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. This computer was used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to calculate lift-off data required to launch the Lunar Module off the Moon's surface and enable it to rendezvous with Command Module pilot Michael Collins for the flight back to Earth.

At the time, IBM described the 6Mbyte programs it developed, to monitor the spacecrafts' environmental and astronauts' biomedical data, as the most complex software ever written.

Even the simplest software today would far exceed the technical constraints the Apollo team worked under. The Apollo programme was pre-Moores's Law: in 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore wrote his vision of how the performance of computer hardware would double every 18 months for the same price.

That a USB memory stick today is more powerful than the computers that put man on the moon is testimony to the relentless pace of technological development encompassed in Moore's Law. However, the Apollo programme proved that computers could be entrusted with human lives. Man and machine worked in unison to achieve something that 40 years on, has yet to be surpassed.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 02:55

German Scientists Prove There is Life After Death

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German Scientists Prove There is Life After Death

Berlin| A team of psychologists and medical doctors associated with the Technische Universität of Berlin, have announced this morning that they had proven by clinical experimentation, the existence of some form of life after death. This astonishing announcement is based on the conclusions of a study using a new type of medically supervised near-death experiences, that allow patients to be clinically dead for almost 20 minutes before being brought back to life.


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Best Android Tablets for September 2014

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Best Android Tablets for September 2014

Best Android Tablets for September 2014


JFK Assassination - Oswald didn't do it!

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JFK Assassination -

Oswald didn't do it!


Send Emails Telepathically

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Could we soon send emails 'telepathically'? Scientist transmits message into the mind of a colleague 5,000 miles away using brain waves

Scientists used EEG headsets to record electrical activity in the brain

  • Electrical activity from words ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’ were converted into binary
  • The greeting was sent from Thiruvananthapuram, India to Strasbourg
  • A computer translated the message and then used electrical stimulation to implant it in the receiver’s mind, appearing as specific flashes of light 
  • According to the researchers, this is the first time humans have sent a message almost directly into each other’s brains 


Read more: 


Pilots banned from being Uber drivers in the sky

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Pilots banned from being Uber drivers in the sky

Cirrus Demo Aircraft

"You're going to Napa in your Cessna? Me too! If you let me hop in, I'll pay my share of the gas!" That arrangement is legal, but the FAA has declared that connecting brave passengers with amateur pilots for a fee is definitely a no-no. The ruling came from a request for clarification by a company called Airpooler, a small plane equivalent of UberX. That service and others like FlyteNow let private pilots post listings for flight dates and destinations, along with a corresponding fee. Thanks to a 1963 decision, such sharing is legal if done by word of mouth or a notice board, provided the pilot only asks for a fair share of the expenses. However, in a rather confusing letter, the regulator told Airpooler that its service violates the spirit of that ruling. Instead of offering a bonafide "joint venture with a common purpose," participating pilots are "holding out to transport passengers for compensation." That means unless you have a commercial ATP or CPL license, using those services is DOA.

[Credit: Brianc/Flickr]

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 August 2014 12:30

The Death of the Original Jumbo Jet, Boeing's 747-400

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The Death of the Original Jumbo Jet, Boeing's 747-400

Later this month, Cathay Pacific's 747 will fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong for the very last time. It's a story we're hearing from nearly every airline still flying the most recognizable passenger jet in aviation history -- rising fuel costs are prompting carriers to ground their fleets, opting to shuttle passengers in more modern (and efficient) airliners instead. Hundreds of 747s still take to the skies every day, but their numbers are dwindling, with Boeing's 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner, as well as the enormous Airbus A380, picking up the slack. The flagships of yesteryear now litter the desert, with several sites in California serving as a permanent resting place for the plane that was once known as the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747-400.  

READ MORE: Engaget


Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 23:34

Cell Discovery brings Cell Disorder Cure Closer

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  Cell Discovery brings Cell Disorder Cure Closer

Date: August 13, 2014

Source: Monash University
A cure for a range of blood disorders and immune diseases is in sight, according to scientists who have unraveled the mystery of stem cell generation. Found in the bone marrow and in umbilical cord blood, HSCs are critically important because they can replenish the body's supply of blood cells. Leukemia patients have been successfully treated using HSC transplants, but medical experts believe blood stem cells have the potential to be used more widely.

A cure for a range of blood disorders and immune diseases is in sight, according to scientists who have unravelled the mystery of stem cell generation.


The Australian study, led by researchers at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, is published today in Nature. It identifies for the first time mechanisms in the body that trigger hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) production.

Found in the bone marrow and in umbilical cord blood, HSCs are critically important because they can replenish the body's supply of blood cells. Leukemia patients have been successfully treated using HSC transplants, but medical experts believe blood stem cells have the potential to be used more widely.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Currie, from ARMI explained that understanding how HSCs self-renew to replenish blood cells is a "Holy Grail" of stem cell biology.

"HSCs are one of the best therapeutic tools at our disposal because they can make any blood cell in the body. Potentially we could use these cells in many more ways than current transplantation strategies to treat serious blood disorders and diseases, but only if we can figure out how they are generated in the first place. Our study brings this possibility a step closer," he said.

A key stumbling block to using HSCs more widely has been an inability to produce them in the laboratory setting. The reason for this, suggested from previous research, is that a molecular 'switch' may also be necessary for HSC formation, though the mechanism responsible has remained a mystery, until now.

In this latest study, ARMI researchers observed cells in the developing zebra fish -- a tropical freshwater fish known for its regenerative abilities and optically clear embryos -- to gather new information on the signalling process responsible for HSC generation.

Using high-resolution microscopy researchers made a film of how these stem cells form inside the embryo, which captured the process of their formation in dramatic detail.


READ MORE: ScienceDaily

Blood cells (stock illustration). "HSCs are one of the best therapeutic tools at our disposal because they can make any blood cell in the body. Potentially we could use these cells in many more ways than current transplantation strategies to treat serious blood disorders and diseases, but only if we can figure out how they are generated in the first place. Our study brings this possibility a step closer," one researcher said.
Credit: © abhijith3747 / Fotolia


Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 23:39

CitationAir to Cease Flight Operations

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CitationAir To Cease Flight Operations 

Textron Aviation confirmed to AIN that it will terminate flight operations at its former fractional and charter/management operation, CitationAir, on October 31. The move comes 2.5 years after CitationAir stopped selling fractional shares in new aircraft and ceased renewals for current fractional-share customers in February 2012, saying at that time it would instead focus on its jet card and aircraft management products. The company is now abandoning even that modest plan.

“We previously communicated with our customers regarding the decision to cease selling our fractional, jet card and management products,” a Textron Aviation spokeswoman said. “After diligently evaluating options for the future of CitationAir, we have made the decision to wind down our operations and exit the business. Once all of the fractional interests are repurchased from current owners, the aircraft will be handled through the company’s pre-owned aircraft sales department.” The last fractional share owner contracts at CitationAir would have expired in December next year, a source told AIN.

All “impacted employees are receiving 60-day Warn [worker adjustment and retraining notices],” the spokeswoman added. Textron Aviation would not say how many people are affected, but the source said there are approximately 100 employees still at CitationAir, including 38 non-management pilots. These pilots, who are represented by Teamsters Local 1108, also sent a request to the National Mediation Board late last month asking for a vote to decertify the union.



FAA Looking At Revising Rotorcraft Standards

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FAA Looking At Revising Rotorcraft Standards

The FAA announced it will formally re-examine the certification standards for helicopters under FAR Parts 27 and 29. Currently Part 27 helicopters must weigh 7,000 pounds or less and have no more than nine passenger seats. Helicopters that weigh more than 7,000 pounds and have 10 or more seats fall under the more stringent Part 29.

The FAA sought public comment on the possibility of changes to these rules in February, particularly whether it should change existing weight- and seat-based applicability standards for normal and transport rotorcraft. The FAA noted that “commenters indicated a substantial interest in revising and restructuring the certification standards…and the FAA’s rotorcraft directorate will begin establishing appropriate forums to involve interested parties” to include Transport Canada and the EASA.

“We continue to recognize that the evolution of Parts 27 and 29 has not kept pace with technology and the capability of rotorcraft produced currently,” the FAA noted. The agency said it is interested in new certification standards that are “more efficient and adaptable to future technology.”



Pilatus Rolls Out the PC-24, Its First Jet Airplane

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Pilatus Rolls Out the PC-24, Its First Jet Airplane

To great fanfare, Pilatus rolled out its new PC-24 “Super Versatile” jet on Friday at its home airfield of Buochs, near the town of Stans in central Switzerland. The prototype of the twin-engine business/utility jet was pulled across the runway by 24 horses before coming to rest on a giant Swiss flag painted on the apron, in front of a grandstand with 1,000 VIPs and another 24,000 people.

The Williams FJ44-4A-powered aircraft is sold out for its first three years of production. All orders were announced (84 aircraft) at EBACEin May. During a factory tour, and again at the rollout, Pilatus made it clear that the order book for the $8.9 million twinjet is closed, at least until after first flight, which is expected early next year.



Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 05:02

FAA Spins Third Class Medical Issue

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FAA Spins Third Class Medical Issue

Pending Legislation Forcing Agencies Hand

Aero-Commentary By Gene Yarbrough; ANN Resident Political Analyst / Conspiracy Theorist

The FAA Agents have been out in force this week at AirVenture with up to 14 individual forums or press events all aimed at putting lipstick on the pig that is the third class medical quagmire. In three of these individual forums FAA affiliated medical doctors espoused myriad reasons supporting the FAA position, revealing a coordinated defense.


Dr. Greg Pinnell held an Aviation Medicine Update at the Whitman Field FAA Safety Center. Dr. Pinnell explained that new regulation changes are allowing AME’s to issue third class medicals in the face of many ailments that required a deferment in the recent past. Conditions AME Can Issue (CACI) is a new program that allows your flight surgeon to issue a third class medical and included 10 conditions that usually would have disqualified or outright denied a medical, including high blood pressure, arthritis, and glaucoma. AME Assisted Special Issuance is also a new program that allows your AME to play a larger, more influential roll in the medical certification decision making process. Serious medical conditions such as heart attack, certain cancers, diabetes and substance abuse are now relegated to the local level after initial medical issuance by FAA. However, this relaxation of procedures does little if anything to assist NEW medical certificate issuance due to the continued requirement for initial decision from Oklahoma City, but it is a welcomed relief and hopefully will provide a more sensible route to the all important, if impotent, third class medical.

Dr. Pinnell reported that, to date, there have been 3 confirmed fatalities attributed to medical issues, with possibly a fourth within the LSA category over the last 10 years. An incredibly small number compared to the number of flight hours in that category over the same time period. Dr. Pinnell agreed that fatalities from medical causes are extremely rare even when looking at the data from all classes of medical certificates issued. When asked if he agreed that a drivers license-based medical standard provided an equivalent or similar level of safety as a non special issuance third class medical, Dr. Pinnell stated he did not agree. He said when drivers licenses from all the States are considered, there is a large disparity in what medical requirements must be met to be issued a drivers license. This explanation seems logical on its face. However, the reporting requirements imposed on any doctor provide a better level of surveillance than a visit to an unfamiliar doctor every three years; if a doctor treats a person for a condition that endangers their safe operation of a motor vehicle they are obligated by law to report that condition to the state issuing the drivers license, this is the part that seems to be completely missed or ignored by the FAA. Therefore, the level of safety may not be glaringly apparent up front but is implicit ... and significantly better ... than the status quo. Dr. Pinnell did admit that the third class medical as it exists does not provide a meaningful, durable level of safety, and recommends a medical certification scenario similar to what Australia uses, i.e. a national standardized driver’s license that would share relevant medical information via a centralized database.

Dr. Bob Achtel hosted a forum on Protecting Your Medical Thursday morning. After reviewing several disqualifying medical conditions Dr. Achtel recommended strategies to preserve your current medical and facilitate an easier recertification process including preparing for your exam as if it were a typical school exam, compiling and reviewing all the necessary paperwork and test reports expected in light of your particular condition(s) before visiting your doctor, correcting problems before seeing your AME, and scheduling a non-flight exam physical. When questioned as to whether the AME is obligated to report any disqualifying conditions found on a non-flight physical, Dr. Achtel affirmed the Physician-Patient confidentiality provisions supersede other regulations.

Later Thursday Dr. Michael Berry held a conference on Hot Aero-Medical Topics. Dr. Berry reviewed the hierarchy of the FAA Medical Branch and how medical appeals processes coursed through the agency up to and including review before the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. Dr. Berry suggested that a General Accounting Office review of medical certification procedures resulted in recommendations being handed down which mandated alleviation of issues that bottlenecked and frustrated the issuance of medical certifications. Out of those recommendations came the Conditions AME’s Can Issue (CACI) program which relegates certain medical conditions that your local AME can immediately issue within his own jurisdiction. Also coming out of the GAO recommendations is the AME Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) program that allows your AME a more direct and influential role in medical certification. Under AASI your AME will request and submit required supporting documentation and facilitate expediting a medical application with his own evaluation. The FAA medical division has finally delegated meaningful responsibility to those that are in the best position to make a determination based on your particular condition and observed abilities.


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