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on 30 October 1999
Journey to the Moon is an incomplete history of the Apollo spacecraft guidance computers. It is told from the viewpoint of a scientist who was intimately involved with its genesis, whilst employed at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. The author has covered a rather narrow subject well, and those teaching computer science or lecturing on avionics would probably appreciate the detail that he has included on this neglected area.
Unfortunately, for such an important and neglected area (no other books specifically about the Apollo Guidance Computer spring to mind), the author has produced a disappointingly narrow treatment. There is exhaustive detail about the early design, construction and testing of the computer, but very little about its later history, ie. the operational record. On the plus side there is a very clear explanation of the problems encountered during LM5's (not LM7 as stated in the Preface) powered descent to the Sea of Tranquillity. However, this is not a cheap book; and Apollo 11, 12 and 14 receive just two and a half pages of discussion - there is negligible mention of the other manned flights. The Apollo 14 paragraph is inadequate and does not even mention the implications that the abort switch "fix" had for the landing radar mode. Surprisingly, the book even lacks a detailed table listing the Programs, NOUNs and VERBs.
In conclusion, this is a rather dry, narrow, expensive book, that does however contain many interesting, little known and important facts - if you have the patience to read it. It is not by any means a complete treatment of the subject. Borrow it from a library.
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