Tape Storage

IBM Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

By Tony Pearson posted Wed July 24, 2019 12:18 PM


Originally posted by: TonyPearson

Inside System Storage with Tony Pearson

 Last week marked the 50th anniversary of landing a human on the moon. Over 4,000 IBM employees were involved. So much has been written about this, that I thought it would be better to point you to some articles and interviews I found of interest.



(While most people focus on the single day, July 20, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin stepped foot on the moon, the entire journey lasted a week, from take off July 16, to splash down on July 24.)

The [Apollo missions were highlighted during IBM's Centennial Anniversary] in 2011. Here is an excerpt:

"The Real-Time Computer Complex (RTCC) in Houston, Texas, was an IBM computing and data processing system at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center—now called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center—that collected, processed and sent to Mission Control information to direct every phase of an Apollo mission. The RTCC was so fast, there was virtually no time between receiving and solving a computing problem. Initially, IBM 7094-11 computers were used in the RTCC. Later, IBM System/360 Model 75J mainframes, and peripheral storage and processing equipment were used."

Those peripheral storage were IBM tape and disk systems, of course. IBM Tape systems were developed in 1952, and disk systems in 1956, in time to be used for the Apollo missions.

Jason Perlow has a great series on the Apollo missions. His post, titled To the Moon: IBM and Univac, Apollo 11's integrators] focuses on IBM's contribution. Here are some excerpts:

"As a system integrator, IBM's involvement in the Apollo program was extensive. No other vendor, Boeing included, touched virtually aspect of the Apollo program.

IBM's involvement in the US Space program dates back prior to the 1950s, where a number of early IBM computer systems were used for missile trajectory and satellite orbital calculations.

These were the modern forerunners of today's zSeries systems as far as their very basic systems architecture is concerned. (The IBM Z mainframe is still backward compatible with software written for the S/360, S/370, and the S/390 through machine virtualization and software emulation.)

IBM's legacy in the Space Program lives on in not just its continued involvement in NASA's current and future efforts with its computer systems and support services, but also in some of the software that was built for the Apollo program.

The IMS suite of hierarchical database management applications, which is still an important part of IBM's mainframe software portfolio, was originally designed by IBM in conjunction with Rockwell and Caterpillar so that the huge Bill of Materials (BOM) for the Saturn V, composed of hundreds of thousands of parts, could be inventoried and managed."

NPR commemorated [The 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11's Moon Landing] on their "Fresh Air" radio program. This radio program includes previously recorded interviews with:

  • Chuck Yeager, test pilot who broke the sound barrier.
  • Alan Shepard, the first American to reach space. (Of course, Russia takes the prize of first man to orbit the earth, with Yuri Gagarin's flight back in 1961.) Later, Alan would be the first man to hit a golf ball on the moon.
  • Michael Collins, the third astronaut of the Apollo 11 mission. While Neil and Buzz were down on the surface of the moon, Michael kept the command module in orbit, effectively "driving around the block" to pick them up when they were ready to head home.
  • Chris Hadfield, a modern-day astronaut, famous for his cover of the [Space Oddity] song.

As I mentioned in my infamous blog post [ IBM Watson -- How to replicate Watson hardware and systems design for your own use in your basement], you can build your own [Apollo Guidance Computer].

Real-time images from the moon were sent in 10-frames-per-second format to three places on earth, two in Australia and one in California. Television cameras pointed at those monitors were then used to for the live feed to the rest of the world. The live feed was also recorded in Houston Texas, to capture the best parts from each of the three sources, in case there were problems with the live feed. However, since there were no problems with the live feed, these video tapes were never used.

Apollo 11 tapes

Years later, Gary George, a NASA intern, would purchase a whole bunch of surplus video tapes for just $218 dollars, which included three of the video tapes from Houston of the Apollo 11 landing. Today, they happen to be the only remaining recordings of the event, and [were sold last week for $1.82 Million dollars at Sotheby's auction!

This whole episode exposes the [Digital Dark Age]. Created on perishable plastic, film decays within years if not properly stored. According to [National Film Preservation Foundation], the losses are high. The Library of Congress has documented that only 20 percent of U.S. feature films from the 1910s and 1920s survive in complete form in American archives; of the American features produced before 1950, about half still exist.

To learn more on IBM's impressive capabilities to pull of projects like this, or just how to store data for long term retention, attend one of the [IBM Systems Technical University] events we have coming up in Bangkok, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Las Vegas, Sydney, and Prague.