Meet Margaret Hamilton: the “Rope Mother.” When MIT was awarded the contract to design Apollo’s guidance and navigation computer, the notion of creating software to run it was an afterthought at best. In the early ’60s, computer programming was seen as an unsophisticated and undesirable task. In fact, the term “software” did not even exist (Margaret would create it to distinguish her role from those designing computer “hardware”).
A self-taught programmer, Margaret developed a sophisticated series of binary code programs the astronauts would run to get them to and from the lunar surface. Unlike modern computers, the Apollo guidance computer had two types of memory: the first could be written to and read from (what we now call RAM memory); the second was read-only. While modern computers store information on silicon chips, information had to be “written” into a series of magnetized donut-shaped pieces called cores. These cores were then threaded through a series of wires. If the wire passed through the core, the computer sensed a binary “one”, and if it went around the core, a binary “zero.” The entire assembly was called a core rope––an incredibly difficult and time-consuming contraption to build–one completely foreign to today’s software engineers.
Margaret’s guidance programming not only succeeded in getting astronauts to and from the moon, but when a computer overload threatened to scrub the first attempted lunar landing on Apollo 11, it was her software that automatically told the computer to ignore certain non-vital functions, giving it the processing power needed to focus on the actions critical for lunar landing. For this act alone, you might say that Margaret is just as responsible for the success of Apollo 11 as Neil Armstrong!
In this audio clip, When We Were Apollo producer, John Filson, interviews Apollo engineer, Bill DeCarlis. Bill describes his life as a young man in Cape Canaveral, Florida, working in the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Saturn V rocket that would take astronauts to the moon. From a chance encounter with a space superstar to a middle-of-the-night mission to save the Apollo 8 launch, Bill gives us a glimpse into what it was like to be part of something big and incredible.
Bill's account is part of our larger effort to capture the untold stories of Apollo workers for our upcoming documentary. Our Kickstarter campaign runs through October 31st. Please support it today!
October 9, 2017
Producer | Campaign Manager
Producer | Media Relations
Doing the big, impossible things brings out the best in ourselves.
THE FILMMAKERS OF WHEN WE WERE APOLLO, A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN “PROJECT WE LOVE,” INITIATE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT WITH “GET TO KNOW THE FILMMAKERS of WHEN WE WERE APOLLO”
VIA FACEBOOK LIVE @SpiritOfApollo
STARTING on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2017, 11:00 A.M. PT
WITH DIRECTOR ZACK WEIL AND PRODUCER JOHN FILSON
Los Angeles, California, October 9, 2017 — As of this announcement, the Kickstarter campaign launched on September 26, designated to fund the first phase of Contact Light Films’ production of When We Were Apollo, has over 200 backers and over $15,000 pledged.
“My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has already contributed. Your contribution not only brings us closer to hitting our financial goal ($52,000), but helps raise the project's profile on the Kickstarter platform––making it easier for potential backers to discover and support!” wrote Director Zack Weil on the latest update to campaign’s backers.
In recognition of the film’s growing demand on social media and the support on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, the director and his producing team are opening up to the public with “Get to Know the Filmmakers” a weekly FB LIVE EVENT. Its mission is to drive awareness and impact of their film’s core #StoriesofApollo - the personal journeys of Apollo’s lesser-known heroes —the builders, technicians and engineers who helped get us to the moon.
EVENT: “GET TO KNOW THE FILMMAKERS OF WHEN WE WERE APOLLO”
DIRECTOR ZACK WEIL AND
PRODUCERS JOHN FILSON AND GIOVANNA AGUILAR
WHEN: Wednesday, October 11th
TIME: 11:00 A.M. Pacific Time
HOSTED BY: Director Zack Weil and Producer John Filson
WHERE: FaceBook @SpiritOfApollo
FREQUENCY: WEEKLY (SCHEDULE TO BE ANNOUNCED ON FACEBOOK)
Space exploration, physics, technology and the pure spirit of innovation owe an eternal debt to the astronauts and NASA figureheads who took us to the moon.
But what about Apollo’s lesser-known heroes —the builders, technicians and engineers who also committed themselves to the mission? What was that intangible spirit of tackling the impossible that made them succeed? Where is that spirit today?
Stories of local heroes are resonating with diverse audiences, from the history buff to the space aficionado, from Baby Boomers to Generation Y, and with people in the United States and around the world. When We Were Apollo is uniquely positioned to capture, engage and grow audiences with the real-life accounts of local heroes whose stories are yet to be shared.
“In When We Were Apollo, and in your team’s vision, we see a compelling and timely aspirational narrative in humanity’s reach toward new frontiers, one that transcends the boundaries of race and class, and the differences of individuals in America.”
- Jeff Gomez, CEO and Founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment.
“We appreciate all the ways that heroes of yesterday and today embody the spirit of Apollo in their daily lives—that conviction that dreaming big and tackling the impossible is really, really important,”
- Zack Weil, Director of When We Were Apollo
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
When We Were Apollo introduces audiences to several unknown heroes from Apollo’s workforce, and reveals what putting a human being on the moon meant to them. It also features young people from the newest generation focused on the next giant leaps for mankind, and what wisdom Apollo’s heroes offer for their journey.
The film will premiere in 2019, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing. See more on the film’s website: www.whenwewereapollo.com
When We Were Apollo aims for impact beyond the film:
- It’s a participatory effort to capture part of our history we would otherwise lose as the Apollo generation begins to exit the world’s stage
- Online engagement with fan communities and partnerships with key organizations before and after the film help uncover Apollo stories no one has heard before
- It will also produce a special compilation of all the original, full-length interviews and never-before-heard stories of Apollo recorded during production. This is history not available anywhere else, and much more content than what appears in the film!
Production will begin in January, 2018 and is slated to shoot on location in Huntsville, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. The film will premiere in 2019, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing in 1969.
About the W3A Kickstarter Campaign:
The Kickstarter campaign launches today, Sept. 26th, and wraps on Oct. 31. It will fund the principal filming of the production phase of the film. Backing this campaign means helping to preserve a piece of our history otherwise lost to time. It also sends the message that the spirit Apollo’s heroes embodied is alive and well today: a community coming together to tackle the huge, “impossible” things facing humankind.
View the LIVE CAMPAIGN.
In addition to a special advanced release of the film, backers can receive:
- an Apollo Oral History—a compilation of full-length interviews not seen in the film
- a hardcover photo book and behind-the-scenes video of the production process, and
- plenty of When We Were Apollo memorabilia and other incentives.
CREATIVE AND PRODUCING TEAM:
Park Avenue Post
Attached to the W3A production is world-renowned transmedia expert Jeff Gomez, CEO and Founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment.
For more information:
Kickstarter Campaign (Live now): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/218581951/when-we-were-apollo-a-documentary-experience/description
Producer | Campaign Manager
Producer | Media Relations
Thank you for your attention!
I've recorded a video blog this week because we've got some very exciting news that I wanted to share face-to-face. I'm thrilled to announce that on Tuesday, September 26th, we will officially be launching our Kickstarter campaign for When We Were Apollo!
For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform which allows anyone with an Internet connection to financially back a creative project in exchange for a reward. Over the years, crowdfunding on Kickstarter has brought tens of thousands of projects to life, from films and documentaries to professional art installations to exciting new gadgets and technologies. It truly has become an integral part of the fundraising process for any creative endeavor!
I'm asking if you'll commit today to pledging $1.00 on the first day of our campaign. One of the things that can really make a difference in crowdfunding is to have great momentum coming right out of the gate. An enthusiastic backer response on day one not only gets us closer to hitting our financial goal; it sends a powerful message to Kickstarter and others thinking about backing When We Were Apollo that our project is one they should support!
To show our gratitude, we're offering all of our day one backers a free When We Were Apollo mission patch sticker (see above). This sticker will be available throughout our campaign for $5.00, but we're giving them away absolutely free to everyone that contributes at least $1.00 when the campaign launches on the 26th!
A lot more to come in the days ahead as we get closer to our launch. Things are about to get really, really exciting!
- Zack Weil
The Spirit of Apollo is alive and well in Southeast Texas, and in many other places I suspect. It just never ceases to amaze me how our response to natural disasters makes it so apparent. You would think based on the fractured state of our country that a natural disaster as devastating as Harvey would only embolden the tribal impulses tearing us apart. But, far to the contrary, the greater the degree of destruction we suffer, the louder our cries to help one another become–the more connected and responsible to each other we feel.
Growing up in South Florida, I learned quickly about the existential threat of hurricanes. In August of 1992, my community was forever changed when Hurricane Andrew struck with a ferocious force–upending trees, homes, and lives on a scale most people will never see. As the winds died down, I can still remember my first look at its path of destruction–thinking to myself that our lives would never again be the same–that we would never fully recover.
And, then out of the silence they came. By mid-morning the revs and drones of chainsaws filled the air with a resolve that seemed to chip away at despair itself. These were not hired hands or government employees, but everyday people: private citizens, neighbors, perfect strangers now clearing lawns, driveways and streets one branch at a time because they could–because they saw in themselves an ability to make a difference–because they made a choice to be an active part of something bigger than themselves.
Now, the people of Southeast Texas must begin that same long and trying road to recovery. And if our response to previous natural disasters like Sandy, Katrina or Andrew is any indication of how they will ultimately fair, I have no doubt that their future–however distant and unreachable it may now feel–will ultimately be a brighter, stronger and more hopeful one. Because the same spirit of 'can do' that carried us through previous recovery efforts will also take root.
It’s the same spirit that guided us during the age of Apollo: a spirit that said “we choose to go the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard”–the spirit that believed “failure is not an option”–the spirit that got us to the moon and back. Behind these words and actions is the common understanding that when we work together towards a common goal, even the impossible is within reach.
If we know the awesome power of this spirit, why then do we reserve it for the worst times alone? Why do we let storms and recovery efforts dictate the emergence of unity and cooperation? History shows that the spirit of Apollo surges in times of tragedy. But we also know of its amazing potential when skies are clear. Like finding a chainsaw and clearing that first path, it begins with a choice. The moment we commit to making this spirit a permanent fixture in our lives rather than a fleeting phantom, the better off we all will be.
There's an amazing new museum to explore Apollo, and it's all accessible with the click of a button! Special thanks to Inara Pey for her wonderful story on the LOOT Interactive Apollo Museum.
Given my interest in space exploration, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that my second Exploring Sansar article focuses on the LOOT Interactive NASA Apollo Museum. However, there is another reason for my doing so: as the Sansar Creator Beta opened, it was – and remains as of the time of writing this piece […]
Very happy to officially share our intro video for 'When We Were Apollo' with you. "The spirit of Apollo–that belief that we can do the big things regardless of what stands in our way–is still with us. It's our deepest hope with this film and beyond that we will always endeavor to do the big things–especially when times are hard–because they push us to become the best versions of ourselves.
On behalf of our production team, thank you for supporting this film, and for all the ways you embody the spirit of Apollo in your daily life."
Zack Weil, Writer/Director
Zack suggested I send you this week's letter. I'm very pleased to meet you! I'm extremely excited to be part of the crew for When We Were Apollo.
Sometimes when I'm tangled in the day's to-do list or stressed about an immediate problem, I think about how big space must be if it takes a beam of light billions of years to cross it. The universe completely blows my mind!
I headed up to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles this week to ask people what they think about space. Picture a long row of cars on a narrow road snaking through the dry desert hills. I crossed the parking lot at the summit and stepped onto the crowded green lawn in front of Griffith's pure white fortress topped with iron domes.
Every kind of person was there, enjoying a scorching summer day and their curiosity for the heavens. Feeling kinda creepy until families realized I only wanted to hear their thoughts about space, I mingled until my bald spot was sunburned. You can watch the video below to see what people had to say.
I missed the moon landing by a decade, but I marvel when I think about how humanity started on this planet with nothing but our body and the dirt; Yet we figured out how to land a human being on the distant moon as it flew across the sky. WHAT?!
Not everyone at Griffith was awestruck. People were candid about more pressing concerns that keep them occupied, from grocery shopping to global poverty. Worries about killing our own planet was a common sentiment. Why spend resources on space exploration when we don't have our own house in order? They have a point.
But there were also plenty of kids, mothers, and friends who think we should always keep exploring the cosmos. It just makes sense. We're here, on our tiny blue marble, and we have the ability to perceive the vastness of space. Not only that, but we can apply the things we learn to improve our life and planet. Why wouldn't we do that?
When We Were Apollo takes us back to the time when putting a man on the moon was the coolest thing around. It's a reminder, as we look after our families and go about the daily business of Earth, that we play a special role in the endless expanse of matter and energy. It's human to be amazed. It's human to forget. All the while nature is here, and we can know it we want. It's distinctly human to decide if we will.
What do YOU think? Please jot us a note in our comments section.
Thank you for reading!