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A salute to the Apollo 11 engineers who landed on the Moon



The 20th July 2019 marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong took his small step on to the lunar surface, and at EngineeringPro we’d be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to commemorate the pioneering engineers that made the giant leap of the Apollo 11 mission possible.

The lunar module - "Eagle" - making its descent, as photographed by Michael Collins from aboard the Apollo 11 Command Module
(Image via NASA)

While Armstrong and Aldrin’s first steps will always be remembered, it’s the work of 400,000 people that finally put a man on the moon. 20,000 industrial firms and universities worked with NASA to create unimaginably complex machines that would take mankind further than it had ever previously reached. 

Apollo 11 launches on the 16th July 1969, beginning its four day journey to the Moon
(Image via NASA)

From the colossal Saturn V rocket that broke free from the Earth’s atmosphere to the cramped, delicate Lunar Module that finally touched down on the Sea of Tranquility on the 20th July 1969, the machines they made were bold, ingenious and inspirational. 

But behind these impressive machines were much smaller, but no less revolutionary works of engineering craftsmanship such as computer technology, including a guidance system and on-board flight software. Though the computers had less capacity than the cheapest mobile phones you can get half a century later, they were powerful enough to reach the moon thanks to the work of programmers such as MIT’s Margaret Hamilton, who was so trailblazing in this industry that she even created the term “software engineering”.

“Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world. There was no choice but to be pioneers; no time to be beginners.” – Margaret Hamilton, MIT Director of Software Engineering for the Apollo program.

Neil Armstrong's bootprint left in the Lunar sands
(Image via NASA)

The average age of the people working at NASA in 1969, holding the hopes of the world and the lives of three astronauts in their hands, was just 28. This young team had to achieve the impossible. From John F. Kennedy’s famous announcement, promising to “go to the moon” by the end of the decade, they had just nine years to make it a reality. 

The Saturn V rocket, topped by the command and service modules and the lunar module, taking off on the mission to the Moon
(Image via NASA)

9 years to design and build a rocket that would take three brave astronauts into space, a lander that could safely touch down on the Moon’s surface and be able to take off again, a system that would allow them to control and dock the service module and lunar module in space, and a guidance system accurate enough navigate the mission from the Earth to the Moon.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, photo taken by Neil Armstrong
(Image via NASA)


“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because the are easy, but because they are hard,” – President John F. Kennedy.

400,000 engineers, technicians, scientists and factory workers worked together fifty years ago so that two men, for the first time in history, could take a step on to the Moon.


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sgoronga, 25 July 2019
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A salute to the Apollo 11 engineers who landed on the Moon - Time to read 3 min
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