NASA Control Room

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by daroc26, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. daroc26

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Apr 4, 2009
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    Hi All,

    Lately I've been watching a lot of NASA TV and space documentaries on PBS. One thing that is drawing my attention is NASA's Mission Control Center.

    Looking at video from the 60's, mission control had massive computers and at each station there were interfaces with switches, buttons, radars, radios. I am amazed by this and want to learn more about the functions of the stations and instrument panels, and how it was wired and communicated with other stations.

    I've searched a bit to find information about NASA's electronic systems, but I've had no luck. I understand that it's probably classified, but there must be something I could obtain from the public domain, especially technology systems from the 60's/70's.

    I guess I better get down to my question. I want to build an interface, similar to one you'd see in a cigar box or a little bigger, that uses switches and buttons, and offers some sort of output. Hope this makes sense! Any suggestions?
     
  2. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    Makes you wonder what happened to all that old equipment. Would be kind kind of cool to buy the surplus and set it up, if you had the space and the money.
     
  3. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
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    That equipment was far less sophisticated than you imagine.

    Glorified security camera console was all most of them were. Those weren't computer stations, but monitors for a primitive CCTV system where cameras looked at different equipment consoles and all the video feeds were sent back to a 'control' room.

    :)
     
  4. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
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  5. daroc26

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Apr 4, 2009
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    Really? It doesn't seem that way. The computers they used for Apollo seemed pretty complex. I can't imagine each operator was simply looking at a monitor.
     
  6. Rbeckett

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    Sep 3, 2010
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    Remember, we went to the moon and back on less power than a commodore 128 back in the day. Most watches have more power than the lunar lander ever had, even now.
    Bob
     
  7. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    There were a lot of logic being build with transistors. The ICs of that era were less than 20 transistors, and a lot more primative.
     
  8. blueroomelectronics

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  9. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    Don't know much about it but I remember hearing on a documentry that the first space shuttle or pod had less power then a modern calculator. Not sure if it was true or they were making a point but I found that amazing.
     
  10. Wendy

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    Mar 24, 2008
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    Lets see, the first shuttle flew in 1982. At that point hard drives were well established, if small (10 and 50 megs). Governments in general could afford the best, so figure 100Meg or more maybe.

    The Z80 was well established, as was the 8080 (released in 1974) and 8086. I would rate this as a myth, unless you are talking about a very high power programmable calculator. Most of those could easily be classed as computers unto themselves.

    The original processor that started it, the 4004 created in 1971, was a 4 bit CPU that all the 80XX series spun off of. Embedded in all the spin offs is the original op code set (modified I'm sure).
     
  11. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    The orginal Apollo guidance computer was constructed from 2,800 three-input NOR gate ICs (RTL logic.) It consumed 55W and operated at 2.048 MHz. A modern calculator doesn't really have a clock (except maybe for the display drive) but the logic inside it probably exceeds 2,800 gates, and typically consumes on the order of microwatts, so it sounds about right.
     
  12. Wendy

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    Mar 24, 2008
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    He didn't say Apollo, he said Space Shuttle. Those little details matter.
     
  13. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
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    Anything going "up there" is going to be state of the art and that's why we have such a good supply of both new and surplus parts available - research.
     
  14. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    I said shuttle or pod. Meaning even pre apollo. So re run those numbers for a 1967-68 launch pre moon landing.
     
  15. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    The Apollo never was referred to as a shuttle. Before that was the Gemini, and before that was the Mercury. All of those were capsules, including the Apollo. All of this was during my lifetime and living memory. God I feel old.

    When the Apollo program was started transistors had been invented 7 years previous. Two years after the 1st moon landing the 4004 CPU came out. This is not a coincidence.
     
  16. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    From the wiki:

    Original (80s launch era) - 5 computers, 4 running the same task, if one malfunctioned, it was "voted out" by the other 3.


    400,000 instructions per second (16 bit systems), each with 424kB of magnetic core memory.


    This was later upgraded in the quote above.

    In that search, I also found the sad, sad state of our educational system, there was a question about "Why didn't they send the shuttle to rescue Apollo 13?" :eek:

    --ETA: Found the specs on the Apollo Landing Computer:

    Original AGC:
    Designed by M.I.T. in 1964
    World's first microchip computer
    Prototype computer for Apollo moon landing
    Memory: 12K fixed (ROM), 1K eraseable (RAM)
    Clock: 1.024 MHz
    Computing: 11 instructions, 16 bit word
    Logic: ~5000 ICs (3-input NOR gates, RTL logic)
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2011
  17. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
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    I used to have a flight computer from an old fighter jet, tons of boards filled with 2N404 transistors and a ton of core memory cards as well. Probably state of the art at the time just as I found a mobile tracking station at military surplus dump. Sweeping scope that was in sync with the antenna, the technology is even used to this day.
     
  18. Hagen

    Active Member

    May 8, 2010
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    I don't know how historically accurate the movie "Apollo 13" was, but I seem to remember several of the mission scientists using slide rules to calculate critical values.
     
  19. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    Too long ago for me. All I remember is the helicopters racing to meet the pod at sea. Thats why I call it a pod.
     
  20. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
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    A lot of them used specialised rules for fuel flow/burn rates or nav systems.

    They made models for everything.
    http://www.sliderules.info/collection/specialised/9923-brl-nuclear.htm
     
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