The Woman Whose Code Safely Put Humans On The Moon, Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Logical Indian

November 25th, 2016

Margaret Hamilton

Source: nasa | Image Courtesy: nasa | mirror

Margaret Hamilton has been awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on 22nd November 2016 for her devoted work to ensure the success of Apollo 11 mission.

Margaret, born on August 17, 1936, in Paoli, Indiana was the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory which was contracted by NASA to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft.  As a computer programmer, she led the Software Engineering Division of Draper Labs (then MIT Instrumentation Laboratory).  She put together the team that developed the building blocks of modern software engineering, which is also the term she coined herself.

Her rigorous testing and systems approach to the Apollo software development proved itself on 20 July 1969 when Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins successfully disembarked on the moon.

The software program she wrote was to override the guidance computer priority systems and activate the navigation system. It would shed less important radar activities and direct all resources towards steering the vehicle, providing landing information, etc. It was called the “1202 Alarm”. It helped the astronauts guide the vehicle to the landing site. The software was so robust that there were no bugs to be corrected on any of the future Apollo missions too. It was then adapted to be used in Skylab, the Space Shuttle, fly-by-wire systems in aircraft.

Her innovations were recognised by NASA, and she was honoured with the special award in 2003, which also included the biggest financial award ever given to any individual until that point.

She has now been honoured at the White House by President Obama. The Presidential Medal of Freedom, highest civilian award of the United States has been presented to 21 individuals who have contributed meritoriously towards their country.

The other awardees of this medal for 2016 are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elouise Cobell, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Richard Garwin, Bill and Melinda Gates, Frank Gehry, Tom Hanks, Grace Hopper, Michael Jordan, Maya Lin, Lorne Michaels, Newt Minow, Eduardo Padron, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bruce Springsteen, Cicely Tyson.

The Logical Indian congratulates all the recipients and hopes more girls and women undertake STEM studies.

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