July 10, 2016

Apollo Flight Software: 'Burn Baby Burn'

Quartz: Former NASA intern Chris Garry uploaded the software in its entirety to GitHub, the code-sharing site where millions of programmers hang out these days. by Keith Collins

'Within hours, coders began dissecting the software, particularly looking at the code comments the AGC’s original programmers had written. In programming, comments are plain-English descriptions of what task is being performed at a given point. But as the always-sharp joke detectives in Reddit’s r/ProgrammerHumor section found, many of the comments in the AGC code go beyond boring explanations of the software itself. They’re full of light-hearted jokes and messages, and very 1960s references.'

'One of the source code files, for example, is called BURN_BABY_BURN--MASTER_IGNITION_ROUTINE, and the opening comments explain why:

'About 900 lines into that subroutine, a reader can see the playfulness of the original programming team come through, in the first and last comments in this block of code:

'In the file called LUNAR_LANDING_GUIDANCE_EQUATIONS.s, it appears that two lines of code meant to be temporary ended up being permanent, against the hopes of one programmer:

'In the same file, there’s also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to “crank the silly thing around.”

'“That code is all about positioning the antenna for the LR (landing radar),” Burkey explained. “I presume that it’s displaying a code to warn the astronaut to reposition it."'

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