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Author Topic:   Digital Apollo: Human, Machine, and Space Flight (David Mindell)
cspg
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From: Geneva, Switzerland
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posted 11-02-2007 05:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Digital Apollo: Human, Machine, and Space Flight
by David A. Mindell
As Apollo 11's Lunar Module descended toward the moon under automatic control, a program alarm in the guidance computer's software nearly caused a mission abort. Neil Armstrong responded by switching off the automatic mode and taking direct control. He stopped monitoring the computer and began flying the spacecraft, relying on skill to land it and earning praise for a triumph of human over machine.

In Digital Apollo, engineer-historian David Mindell takes this famous moment as a starting point for an exploration of the relationship between humans and computers in the Apollo program. In each of the six Apollo landings, the astronaut in command seized control from the computer and landed with his hand on the stick. Mindell recounts the story of astronauts' desire to control their spacecraft in parallel with the history of the Apollo Guidance Computer. From the early days of aviation through the birth of spaceflight, test pilots and astronauts sought to be more than "spam in a can" despite the automatic controls, digital computers, and software developed by engineers. Digital Apollo examines the design and execution of each of the six Apollo moon landings, drawing on transcripts and data telemetry from the flights, astronaut interviews, and NASA's extensive archives.

Mindell's exploration of how human pilots and automated systems worked together to achieve the ultimate in flight -- a lunar landing -- traces and reframes the debate over the future of humans and automation in space. The results have implications for any venture in which human roles seem threatened by automated systems, whether it is the work at our desktops or the future of exploration.

About the Author
David A. Mindell is Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing, Professor of Engineering Systems, and Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. He is the author of Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics and War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor.

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (May 31, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0262134977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262134972

Larry McGlynn
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posted 11-02-2007 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dr. Mindell was my professor during my Engineering Apollo course at MIT. He has become a mentor to me too.

I have read (and proofed) the initial draft of the book. Dr. Mindell's book will allow the average reader to understand what transpired during the last 50,000 feet of descent to the lunar surface.

Digital Apollo explores the man/machine relationship in the history of aviation and space flight, but focuses on the lunar landing as a premier example of human interface with machines in exploration and flight.

Dr. Mindell is an explorer in his own right. He worked with Robert Ballard during the Titanic, Bismark and Midway expeditions. He has built AOVs and is currently involved in the search for ancient shipwrecks in conjunction with the Greek Government.

David is also chairman of the Space Policy and Studies Group at MIT.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-24-2008 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MIT: About the Cover Image

Computer reconstruction of Neil Armstrong's view out the Lunar Module on Apollo 11, 520 feet above the lunar surface just as he transferred from automatic control to semi-manual "attitude hold" (note his hand reaching for the switch), to fly the vehicle past West crater (visible out the window) to a smooth area for landing. Note the landing point designator, the graded angles on the window that would guide Armstrong's eye to the computers estimate of a landing spot, and the 1202 program alarm indications on the guidance computer display at lower right.

The image was created according to the author's conception by digital artist John Knoll, with research input from Paul Fjeld. A small number of compromises were made in order to create the image: the viewpoint is actually about 18 inches behind where Armstrong's would have been; the view of West Crater is a few seconds out of sync with the mission timer and the events depicted inside the LM; the 1202 alarm, the last of them, occurred approximately 15 seconds earlier so it would most likely have been cleared from the display by this point; some of the checklists that the crew had arrayed around them may be missing; boulders around the crater are included from Armstrong's description.

The LM interior was modeled in AutoDesSys FormZ and LuxologyModo from a variety of reference sources, including NASA drawings, historical photographs, and photographs of the LM simulator at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island. The lunar surface was modeled in Luxology Modo using lunar orbiter photographs and the Apollo 11 powered descent film as reference. Textures were created in Adobe Photoshop. Final rendering was done in LuxologyModo.

pollux
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posted 05-27-2008 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for pollux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I really must stop visiting this forum - it's costing me WAY too much.

spacecraft films
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posted 05-27-2008 02:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I read this over the weekend. It was very enjoyable. I would expect that for many of those on this board the first few chapters would contain little new, but the later two-thirds was a very nice look at the Apollo software, with nearly complete focus on the lunar landings. I think this book nicely complements "Journey to the Moon" by Eldon Hall (which details more of the hardware development of the Apollo computer).

While the later landings are not given the focus that the book grants to the first two landings, the overall treatment of the lunar landing problem and the software challenges are presented in a near-perfect mix of technical material and operational interpretation.

My view of the book overall is very positive, but by the end I felt as though the issue of man vs. machine had been thrashed about all it could be, and there could have been more robust use of graphics to help visually demonstrate some of the operational aspects discussed in the text. Given John Knoll's excellent cover photo creation, the interior was rather sparse for graphical backup, featuring only simple charts, many of which we've seen before in other sources.

I highly recommend it as a solid examination of one of the many separate but interesting stories of Apollo.

spaceheaded
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posted 07-26-2008 07:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceheaded     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just received the book and look forward to reading. I noticed the front flap of the dust jacket states:
As Apollo 11's Lunar Module descended toward the moon under automatic control, a program alarm in the guidance computer's software nearly caused a mission abort. Neil Armstrong responded by switching off the automatic mode and taking direct control.
Is this correct? It was always my understanding that Neil took manual control (or semi-automatic control) in response to a crater and boulders, not in response to the computer alarms.

spacecraft films
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posted 07-26-2008 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You are correct. Keep in mind that dust jackets are nearly always outside of the author's control and often are created from the publisher's marketing department.

This doesn't excuse it, but it is an explanation.

Enjoy the book. I know I did.

Paul78zephyr
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posted 10-17-2008 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It looks fascinating. I'll probably have to wait for it in the local library as I'm on a new budget and can't add books to the shelves like I used to.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-30-2009 07:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For those in the Houston area:
David A. Mindell, MIT
"Human and Machine in Spaceflight"

Thursday, November 12, 2009, 3:30 PM
University of Houston, Main Campus, Garrison 209

David A. Mindell , Professor of History of Engineering and Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His recent book, Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (MIT Press, 2008), was selected as the Eugene Emme outstanding book in astronautics for the past year by the American Astronautical Society. He has degrees in Literature and in Electrical Engineering from Yale University, and a doctorate in the History of Technology from MIT.

Blackarrow
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From: Belfast, United Kingdom
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posted 10-30-2009 02:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree. It's an excellent book. I don't think it's betraying any confidences to mention that Dave Scott recommended it to me while I was researching the Apollo 15 chapter in the forthcoming "Footprints in the Dust."

MCroft04
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From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 09-01-2012 07:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just completed the book and overall liked it. But you would think that the author could have spelled Jack Schmitt's name correctly (vs Schmidt)! Perhaps that's why Dave Scott liked it so much . Also, Bull Schmidt doesn't sound as good as Bull Schmitt!

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