How did NASA Steer the Saturn V?- Smarter Every Day 223

How did NASA Steer the Saturn V?- Smarter Every Day 223

– The Saturn V rocket
took humans to the moon for the first time, but the
humans didn’t steer the rocket. It steered itself using a computer. – [Man] Tower, clear. – [Man] Gotta roll program. – A lot of the Saturn
V rocket was built here in Huntsville, Alabama,
otherwise known as Rocket City. And one of the really cool
things about living here is it’s filled with aerospace
and computer engineers who love this stuff, so a
thing you can actually do here is pick up the phone and
call one of your friends and have them call their
friend, and before you know it, you’re in a parking lot,
receiving a Saturn V memory module from a guy you just met, and he just trusts that you’re
gonna give it back to him. This is 14 kilobytes of data,
which is really interesting because the same day I got this, I had Linus Sebastian
from Linus Tech Tips here. We were installing a server
that was over 100 terabytes. Now, millions of people look to Linus to understand more about
modern computing hardware, so I thought a really cool thing to do would be stop what we
were doing with the server and take a closer look
at this memory module and how it works. Let’s sit back and watch
a modern computer nerd learn about the cutting edge
technology from the 1960s. I’m Destin, let’s go
get smarter every day. – [Destin] Have you ever
seen a Saturn V rocket? – [Linus] No. – [Destin] Okay, do you
know what the Saturn V is? – [Linus] Yes. – [Destin] My daily
life literally revolves around the Saturn V. Like, that’s the Saturn V peeking out over the trees right there. – [Linus] Oh, there it is. Hello. – [Destin] In the 60s, they
had just started building digital computers, and I’m
gonna show you the computer that they used to steer that thing. – [Linus] I mean, it’s gotta be a bit of a terrifying experience having, like, the equivalent of a very large bomb strapped to your butt. – So this is the brain
for the Saturn V rocket. If you look up right here, this
is the instrumentation ring, and so they had computers
on here that were digital. This right here is the launch
vehicle digital computer. That is it. This right here is a memory module, okay? And if you look really,
really, really close, really close, you see
those little bitty rings? – Yeah. – [Destin] OK, look right here. Look at that. Do you see that? – [Linus] Holy smokes, so they’re, it looks like zip ties on chicken wire. – [Destin] Okay, those are bits. Those are physical bits. So you see that screen? – [Linus] Yeah. – [Destin] These are wires that go down to these boards right here, right? – [Linus] Yeah. – [Destin] On each node,
you have an iron ring, and depending on how the
iron ring is magnetized, that’s a one or a zero. That’s how they programmed this computer. Seriously. So look at this right here. – So by hand. – [Destin] By hand, yes. – They threaded these wires through the, I mean, who has a steady,
I don’t even think you can build one of these
today if you wanted to. That’s incredible. – [Destin] So there’s a
guy that worked on this in the 60s here. His name is Luke. – Yeah. – [Destin] And, you get ask
him all of these questions. – Fantastic. – I’m Luke Talley, and
at this time in 1969 I was a senior associate
engineer at IBM in Huntsville. – [Destin] So your computer
pointed the rocket? – That’s right. – [Destin] Awesome. – We steered the rocket. So that’s a memory module. – [Destin] That’s a whole
memory module, yeah. – You musta shot somebody to get that. – [Destin] So how valuable
would you say that is? – Well, now this, ah, I
don’t, I’d have no idea. You have to go to Antique Roadshow. This computer controls all the timing. Start engine, stop engine,
fire separation rockets, fire retro rockets, all this kinda stuff. It does navigation and guidance. You have stored in the memory a profile, at this point in time I need to be here, going this fast, going this direction. Now realize that this is core memory, so you have these magnetic cores, you have the wires
feeding through the cores, you push a current down through a wire, if you’ve got a wire, current’s
going in that direction, the magnetic field is going
to be in this direction. If it’s going this way, it’ll be that way. Make that a one, make that a zero. There’s 8192 of those on
this plane, all right? – [Linus] Yeah. – Then there’s 14 of those planes stack up to make this module. This module is what you’re holding. All this stuff now, the
drivers to drive this thing. – That’s just to program
it as a one or a zero. – Because this is basically
an analog process. – Right. – I’m not writing ones and
zeros into a logic gate and storing them that way. – You’re just sending a current — – I’m actually having to
make, magnetize a core one way or the other. And then I’ve gotta read
it, and when I read it, I destroy the magnetization,
so I have to turn right back around and — – Write it again. – Write it back in there,
so that it’s not missing. – Oh, no! – So there’s one of these in this, and then there’s one of these now in each one of these blocks
on this wall over here. – [Linus] Got it. – So we have four, 8, 12,
16 thousand words of memory, another four, 8, 12, 16
thousand words of memory. Now when the Saturn’s flying,
both of these memories are executing the same flight program. – [Linus] Completely in parallel? – That’s right, and they’re
comparing the outputs to make sure they’re
getting the same answer. If they were to not get the same answer, go into the sub-routine and say, “I’m at this point in the flight, I got these two numbers,
what makes the most sense to keep using,” use that
number and keep going. So your critical parts
are triple-redundant in the logic, dual
redundant in the memory. As I recall, during
all the Saturn flights, we had like, less than 10 miscompares, something like that. It was a very small number. – When you’re building a rocket, you have some important parameters that you have to monitor. Power, data bandwidth, mass, volume, you have to manage these so
they don’t get out of control. So you want a reliable
system, but at some point, you have to make a decision. How redundant is redundant enough? – Unreliability, that’s the key, because the more of these things, the more core’s you add, the
more of this stuff you need, the more unreliability
you add to your system, because sheer numbers of parts. – Right. – Luke is about to
explain what it was like to receive data from the
Saturn V via telemetry and then analyze it, and
I’m gonna let this play out, because I want you to
understand how repetitive and difficult this task was. Today we could do this
with just a few minutes and some spreadsheet
software, but back in the day, they were the computers. Like, the people were the computers. So I want you to see it through his eyes, through this historical
lens so you understand what it was like to
analyze the Saturn V data. – So did you pull the data
down while it was flying? – Things happen too quick in flight to. – [Destin] How do you know you had — – We get the data back and then we ana, that was my job at IBM,
was we were analyzing the flight data to determine what worked, what didn’t work, if it
didn’t work on this flight, how do we fix it on the next flight? – Got it. – And then when you get
the NASA requirements for the next flight, make
sure we got everything in place to do what we
were supposed to do, so the data tapes come
from all around the world through Goddard Space
Flight Center’s responsible for that, so they get us the
data and then we analyze it and determine what happened. Something would go wrong in the computer, and it always goes wrong
when something else is messing up the telemetry
system, so we would actually get what they call an octal dump. We have this 11 by 17 sheet of
paper, 10-bit octal numbers, so you’d have, there were four characters. Zero to seven’s as high as
you go with octal arithmetic. So you got all these
things, I think it was like, maybe 40 columns and 30
rows or something like that, so we would get this thing printed out, and all it’s just numbers, well,
the piece we’re looking for is in a particular place down here. Well, the drop out is where we, you know, telemetry dropout, we would
actually get this printed out 11 by 7 fanfold paper,
spread it down this hallway, get down on your hands and knees, make a template, cut out
the, you’ll have a number of measurements that’ll
always be the same, you know, like a bolt, it never
changes, so we know what those number’s oughta be. So we cut the holes out and slide it down page by page, “Oh, hey,
these all look good! “Okay, this frame’s probably good.” So we go find so many
columns, so many rows, find the number we want, write it down. – So you’re looking for one —
– Go to the next one. – If it bungs up something
that you know is a fixed value then it probably bunged up something else. – That’s right, and if
the fixed value’s okay, then somewhere in there
our number’s probably okay. – And then once you’ve
got the problematic one, I mean, is that just the
world’s nastiest sudoku puzzle? How do you solve that? – Well, no, you may have,
you may have to do this for many, many, many frames. Then you take it to your desk
and take those octal numbers, convert ’em to decimal numbers, go to a calibration chart and say, “Okay, I got this number.” Go up my chart and say that means it’s five degrees Centigrade. So you write down five degrees, then you figure out what frame you are, and that’s about what time it is, so you’re, “At this time,
I had five degrees.” Then you go to the next one. Now you do this for about two weeks, and finally you got enough
to plot a graph by hand. So you put all these numbers in and you plot it by hand, and then you say, “Hm, that wasn’t the problem after all. “Oh, well, here we go again.” (laughs) – [Linus] Oh, boy. – [Destin] This is Ed. Ed is the head curator. – Hi, Linus, how are you? This is kind of an in-the-hand
example of the memory cores that you can see woven
into the spread here and then kinda under the
magnification over here, and there’s about eight
or nine of them in there. So like Luke was saying,
when you run the current through there, it starts
to spin that doughnut in a particular direction,
and that tells you whether it’s the one or the zero. And you were saying they
were woven on by hand, and it was primarily
women that did the work, that had basically a bench top. – So they would have like
textile industry experience, I guess. – Um, I am actually not certain what their qualifications were, but they would sit with a bench top with this thing mounted in a holder with copper wire lengths and
tweezers and their fingers and a lot more patience than I have, to weave these things through there, to make sure they went
through appropriately, no kinks, no bends that
were out of the spec, and to actually make sure
that the little doughnuts go into across the way they should and that it was all uniform so everything would be
predictable behavior. – [Linus] Incredible. – [Destin] I just wanted you
to hold the physical bit, now you know what that’s like. – I mean, this is, this
is more than 8 bits, so I’m holding at least a byte. (laughs) You can look at it that way. – [Destin] So when you look at this, what kind of emotion do you feel, when you look at this, Luke? Do you, do you, are you proud? – Is it fondness, or is it more just, “Thank goodness I don’t have to work on that bloody thing any more”? – No, I’m gonna talk to one of my buddies when you go out the building, see if he’d hit you in the head. (laughs) – [Destin] To get this thing? – Yeah. No, that’s a real piece of work, and it looks, to people that come in here, they say this just looks
so much like an antique. But again, we only had a few failures during the whole flight
that were intermittent. We never had a catastrophic failure. – People might say antique, but I would say hand-crafted. – Yes, it was a lot of
hand work went into these. – [Linus] Oh, you can
tell, I mean, even just, even these are clearly hand-baked. – Well, they got the goop on ’em because the big problem with
this thing is vibration. The memory that we were
looking at over there — – Yeah, you got physical rings on there. – They test and test
and test on that thing to make sure that you
hadn’t got a kink in a wire or a twist, ’cause if
you do, the vibration’s gonna cause it to break. Those things were made by hand. The ladies actually wove these things like you’re weaving a piece of cloth. Pretty amazing. – [Linus] Oh, this is fascinating. Thank you very much, by the way. – I wanna say thanks to the sponsor today, which is audible. I’m about to recommend a 13-hour audiobook about salt, and you’re
gonna think I’m crazy, but I’m not, ’cause it’s amazing. This is a book called
“Salt: A World History,” by Mark Kurlansky, and it is amazing. Like everything from Natron
in the Egyptian desert to why Civil War battles
were fought the way they were because there were certain
saltworks in certain locations to why Gandhi walked to the ocean. And it also tells you about, like, garum, which is a Roman sauce,
like a Roman ketchup, that we don’t even know
how to make any more. This audiobook is amazing,
and you should listen to it. You can get is by going
to, or texting the word “smarter” to 500-500. I know it would make more sense to recommend an audiobook about space but this is what I’m actually listening to and it’s incredible. So, or text the word “smarter” to 500-500, get
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days by using these links, You will love this book, please do that. That supports “Smarter Every Day.” When you support “Smarter Every Day,” it lets me do more videos
about the stuff I love. If you want to see more
of this interaction between Linus and Luke, it’s incredible. Like on the second channel,
there’s a 30 minute video of Luke going all the
way down the rabbit hole. This guy knows his stuff. Like, I feel like I know
rockets pretty well, Linus certainly knows computers, but when we’re sitting
there, it’s almost like Luke could just run around both of us. Go check that out on the second channel. Also go check out Linus’s channel. Actually, I’ll just let
Linus do an outro himself. Go check out Linus’s
channel, Linus Tech Tips. He’s talking about,
what’s it called again? – The instrument unit,
basically we talk a little bit about the computer but
Destin’s got a little more information on that, but I really love the cooling system on this thing, it’s gonna blow your guys’s mind. Unreal. – It’s awesome, it’s at
the top of the rocket because as you got all three
stages of the Saturn V, you need your instrument unit way up here so you can guide the Saturn V before the Apollo computer takes over, but Linus talks about details of power and how that stuff works. It’s pretty cool. – Yeah. – [Destin] Thanks, dude, appreciate it. – See you guys. Thank you. – [Kids] You’re welcome! – Thanks, guys! – [Destin] It’s called space camp. – Space camp. – [Destin] Yeah, so all
those kids are here to learn how to be astronauts and fighter pilots. That’s Luke. – [Linus] No! – [Destin] That’s Luke. – No way! On the left there, apparently. – [Destin] That’s pretty cool, huh? – [Linus] Luke Talley,
there it is, far left. That’s nice. – [Destin] That’s pretty neat, isn’t it?

100 thoughts to “How did NASA Steer the Saturn V?- Smarter Every Day 223”

  1. I would like to point out several things:
    1. Luke Talley is awesome.
    2. Every single frame of this video requires more memory storage than this memory module is capable of handling. Think about that.
    3. On the second channel we talk about things like how they took into account gyroscopic precession with this bad boy. They also crashed this into the moon and used the signal as a way to figure out what the inside of the moon is like. It's a good video, you should consider watching it. ( )
    4. This is not the Apollo computer. This is the Saturn V computer. They're different. This steered the rocket.
    5. People that support Smarter Every Day on Patreon are really cool and I like them a lot. ( )

  2. So when I understood correctly there were four men talking about a computer that physically was built by women. I would love to hear from one of the women how it was, if they still live.

  3. One day all the legends that worked in association with our venture out to the moon will be gone and we will just have the memories. How lucky we are to have a guy like Luke to learn from. Very jealous that you guys got to sit and talk with him.

  4. Nowadays 14k does not even turn a light bulb ON! (i know it does… but)
    We live is a waste society in more ways than one. lol

  5. 6:00
    because!…. computers help in doing, they don't do !
    what does , is the math that helps the person manage the forces of the universe, which gets so complicated that it requires the computer to simplify it.

    when in doubt,…. trust the MATH!
    remember that meme scene in Bruce Almighty when Bruce makes Evan go apeshit on camera?
    "Read the print! The print is good!" ?
    well, same thing, read the math ! the math is good.

  6. Indeed an amazing video! It took such an amazing dedicated team of people to develop such technology in such a short amount of time! I was in the 9th grade when they landed on the Moon. I would have never dreamed that in 50 short years I would carry a cell phone with far more computing power than a Saturn V Rocket! Thank you for a great video! Even Linus was impressed 😁!

  7. I knew I was in trouble of uncontrollable laughter the second Luke Talley started talking.

    "You must've shot somebody to get that."

    (In response to how valuable the module was)

    "Uhh Oh I don't know …you'd have to go to Antique Road show to get that."


  8. We still used ferrite core memories in the 80s. We had solid state memories of much greater capacity by then but ferrite core memory was radiation hardened and stable has heck.

  9. Just chilling with 3TB in my PC, it's insane that they managed to get people on the moon and back which computers that are so primitive to what we have now. Mum had a bunch of floppy disks she wanted to get rid of, think she said it was about 156MBs in total and it was a huge stack which in my hand I had a tiny USB which is shorter than my little finger which is 16GB. It's incredible how far computing has come in only a few decades.

  10. Can we PLEASE get a note if the main video is included ENTIRELY in the video on the second channel? I like getting smarter every day, but I don't feel like wasting 14 minutes to get the same bits all over again in another 44min video.

  11. "I am endeavouring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins." — Spock Talley

  12. Okay, I'm comfortable accepting that I'm probably just not that bright but for clarity, am I the only one who didn't understand a single word of what Luke Talley said?

  13. Salt is incredibly . Water is incredibly . Simple things we eat everyday and we know very little about . Ormus is awesome !

  14. People have almost forgotten about "Analog" these days when our mentors teach us about just an example: Early Processors, Music or Fuel Intake. It is so amazing how far we have come & how much further we will go…
    Thanks 4 sharing. 011000101100

  15. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Nice to see what a giant looks like…An incredibly kind and gracious gentleman.

  16. And remember, astronauts trusted their lives to these components, in the vastness of space where the tiniest miscalculation (plotted months before from an air-conditioned office back on Earth, and implemented through a pioneering scheme of hardware with no real possibility of correction) meant burn-up on re-entry, or death by cold-vacuum-asphyxiation, lost to the lightless void. BRAVE men, and capable of a faith that today seems almost childish.
    I say, as a confirmed agnostic, God Bless those adventurous souls.

  17. 12kb solid state NAND memory. Nano technology has allowed terabytes of data to be stores on a surface billions of times smaller.

  18. Remarkable luck I saw this in my feed. The ferrite core memory being described around 9:20 was invented by our former neighbour in England, Dr. Ron Millership, back in the 50s. (US Patent US2790160A) Lovely American bloke who in the 1980s would invite my brother and I over and tell us about his work, over a stiff drink. Both he and his English wife passed away years ago, but both very kind. His invention was ground breaking because it introduced solid state non volatile memory. Until then, digital memory was either based on mechanical physical media (cards, tape etc) or constantly refreshed solid state memory that of course required constant power.
    It was inventions like Ron's that in part made the early space program possible.
    Thanks for the video, makes me honored to know Ron although he doesn't get much coverage anywhere, probably because he was an employee of IBM, not sure.

  19. you are really awesome! at least someone like me in another corner of the earth would be able to learn something thru you!!! but you should definitely make another way beside of Audible to support your channel… as my country here doesn't allow access to audible.. XD cheer hope you do all well.. and keep up the good work!

  20. I would like to ask Luke with today's technology, what kind of computing power could we fit into that same physical space on the rocket? Just to get a one to one comparison.

  21. YEP…WOW…THIS IS AMAZING…even more amazing the requirements document is only 8 pages long…really cool stuff…

  22. Worth remembering when sometimes we feel very little progress has been made in space travel since the 60’s that we’re sending automated mobile laboratories to asteroids these days! Maximum respect to the people who had to work all this out from pretty much scratch back in the 60’s!

  23. This is proof that it doesn't take much computer power to send a rocket into space. No graphics to test programs easily. How much power does it take to send the space shuttles.

  24. @SmarterEveryDay That salt book is amazing! Thanks for the tip. I'd like to recommend to you a book about another substance essential to life. It's called "The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert." Beautifully written by Craig Childs, it describes his own quest for understanding of this amazing mineral, and some of the many varied ways life and water interact in one of the places where it's so precious because of it's scarcity.

    Thank you, again, for the book recommendation and all your awesome videos. Because of your passion and the quality of your productions, I frequently share them with my family, friends, and followers.

  25. The patience and skill these people had was amazing. It's amazing to think how far technology has come in just a few short decades. Look at Nintendo from the early 90s and Xbox from today, what's technology Gona b like in 2100.

  26. I was born in 1956 so the Apollo era is still locked in my brain. I have never looked at the Apollo hardware that close but I have held a core memory and yes, those toroids and wires are that tiny. Amazing then and still are today 🙂

  27. It's just absolutely stunningly incredible to me how much effort was made by humans in order to allow this project to continue! Props to everyone involved.

  28. I think old technology like this is even more impressive than modern technology, imagine how long it took to make the analog processor, test it enough times to be reliable, and then send someone to space with it. The team working on that must have had so much patience.

  29. Linus: "I mean, who has a hand steady enough for this."
    Poor Linus 🙁

    Great video, very informative, and the memory module is just sick!

  30. At a place I used to work, there was a special vault, for work on some specialized equipment. We were trying to clean out this vault. There were a couple of old "core memory modules" that had been stored in there for who knows how many years. They were each about 3 feet, by 2 feet, by 4 – 6 inches. Inside were layered sheets of ferrite bead core memory. I want to say they were something like 128 or 256k of memory each, but I can't remember. It was the coolest thing to look at.

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