Imagine being one of the principal cogs in these wheels, whose job it was to not only coordinate the development of these computer programs, but define what they would do, how they would do it, and how they would be used. This was the beginning of the digital era; concepts such as “software specifications” had not yet been invented; nor had terms such as “multitasking”, “operating system” or “virtual machine” – all of which the Apollo Guidance Computer would implement. The workload was immense.
Contingencies for equipment failures would need to be identified, defined and studied in order to formulate, document and create the computer programs necessary to handle them, and then the flight crews would need to be trained in the procedures required to use them; procedures which, it was hoped, would never be needed. Most of these procedures, and the hundreds – if not thousands of man-hours – spent devising them, have become a historical footnote. PDI Abort? Never happened. CSM Rescue? Never happened. How will we locate the crew if they arrive back on earth if the radio breaks down in lunar orbit? We will never know for sure, because it never happened. But we know these things concerned those involved, and that contingency procedures were developed. The proof is in these documents.
In the words of Ed Harris in his portrayal of Gene Kranz in the ‘Apollo 13’ movie, “Failure is not an option”. I don’t care who said it, or if, where and when. It’s a great line, and it’s a line which epitomises the attitude carried into the planning for these missions. I’m sure the individuals involved would agree. Mission Rule #1: The astronaut comes back home.
This project is a personal endeavor to collect and transcribe in to plaintext the thousands of documents which exist online — often in poor scan quality which prevents even the best search engine AI from indexing — starting with Tindallgrams, an incomplete collection of 450+ memorandums authored by Howard W. Tindall, Jr.
I hope to branch out as time progresses, and also find the time to write commentaries linking the threads of these memos together for those without the time to dig through them themselves. In the meantime, please feel free to browse what exists so far; over 100 documents indexed by date, category, and full searchable.