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The guts of NASA’s pioneering Apollo computer were handwoven like a quilt

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14.06.2019

This is the 14th in an exclusive series of 50 articles, one published each day until July 20, exploring the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Moon landing. You can check out 50 Days to the Moon here every day.

When the sophisticated electric car that Americans flew to the Moon set out across the lunar surface, it rolled on wheels that had an interior of titanium and whose tire treads were made of wire mesh. The treads flexed to allow the lunar rover to race across the Moon’s dusty surface; the treads let some of the dirt into the tire, and then as it rolled around, the mesh flexed open and the dust simply fell out.

It was a brilliant solution to keeping traction in a slippery, gritty surface in one-sixth gravity. And the mesh that made it possible? It was made of piano wire—woven by hand.

When the Apollo spacecraft floated down to the Pacific Ocean on three distinctive orange and white parachutes, each one 83.5 feet across and 7,200 square feet of material—bigger than the floor space in two homes—all the sewing was done by hand, by women at black Singer sewing machines. Each chute required 2 million individual stitches to assemble.

And then there was the Apollo flight computer. In two previous installments of #50DaysToTheMoon, we’ve explained how astonishingly advanced the technology of the Apollo computer was, and how MIT’s pioneering use of integrated circuits in the spaceship computer laid the foundation of the digital age.

The Apollo computer, like the lunar rover and the parachutes, was cutting-edge........

© Fast Company