The moon landing of Apollo 11 was powered by a huge leap forward in technology and interestingly now hidden messages were uncovered inside computer programming code that drove the flight software. Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre and it fulfilled the goal of US President John F Kennedy of landing man on the moon by the end of sixties. It was the fifth crewed mission of NASA’s Apollo programme and it had three parts including, a command module (CM) with a cabin for the three astronauts, a service module (SM), which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water, and a lunar module (LM) that was used to touch down on the Moon.
According to Express media outlet, when the programmers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory set out to develop the flight software used for Apollo 11, they had to invent it, coming up with a new way to store computer programmes, called “rope memory”. The MIT programmers wrote thousands of lines of the esoteric code. While the data had been available to the public, it was first uploaded to the internet by tech researcher Ron Burkley in 2003, after he had transcribed it from scanned images of the original hard copies.
The MIT got hold of the scans and put them online in the form of page images, which unfortunately had been mutilated in the process to the point of being unreadable in places. Burkey then had reconstructed the illegible parts, using his engineering skills to fill in the blanks. He had said that he managed to get some replacement scans for the unreadable parts and fortunately found out that the parts filled in were 100 per cent correct.
However, the code remained out the spotlight for more than a decade, until NASA intern Chris Garry uploaded it to code-sharing site GitHub. Within hours, coders then began dissecting the software. It is worth noting that in programming, comments are plain-English descriptions of what task is being performed at a given point, but often coders leave light-hearted jokes.
According to reports, one of the source code files, for example, is called ‘BURN_BABY_BURN—MASTER_IGNITION_ROUTINE’. In the file titled ‘’LUNAR_LANDING_GUIDANCE_EQUATIONS,’ it appears that two lines of code meant to be temporary ended up being permanent, against the hopes of one programmer. In the same file, there’s also code that instructs the astronauts to “crank the silly thing around”.
Burkey said that the code is all about positioning the antenna for the Landing Radar (LR). He said that he presumes that its displaying code to warn the astronaut to reposition it. Further, he explained that the 'PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHTS' file, which is described as “the keyboard and display system programme exchanged between the AGC and the computer operator,” there is even a reference to Shakespeare.
Burkey said that this is thought to because the Apollo Guidance Computer (ACG) language uses predetermined nouns and verbs to execute operations. The verb 37, for expanse, means “Run programme”, while the noun 33 means “time for ignitions,” Burkey explained. Since uploaded, scores of developers have suggested changes and potential mistakes. The code is believed to have been updated before future Apollo flights.