Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, and last night Bob and I watched the “Apollo Wives” documentary on PBS. It was a fascinating trip down memory lane for anyone old enough to remember where they were on July 20, 1969.
I was in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a my roomie Alicia. My own wedding was on the horizon, and the moon landing was on a small black and white TV in the corner of our apartment. I remember feeling awed and wondering if the footage had been slowed down, because the effect of zero gravity didn’t translate to my brain.
Bob called me soon afterwards, to see if I had watched. There were no DVRs or recording devices to play back such a monumental moment in time. If you missed it, you’d have to wait for the next day’s evening news show. I had to remind Bob I was marrying someone else. I wonder if he remembers?
That August, Bob had to chase his own stardust at Woodstock:
The story of Woodstock, slice it how you will, is anti-Darwinian; nature suspended her processes of selection, and everyone more or less lovingly muddled through. Such menaces as there were seem to have been collective—the dodgy brown acid, the lack of sanitation, the rain that left concertgoers huddled under (packaged in?) sheets of clear plastic. When Sri Swami Satchidananda, ochre-robed, inaugurated the proceedings on August 15, he proclaimed the imminent oneness of everything: “America is becoming a whole!” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/woodstock-nation/307611/
America became whole when a man landed on the moon, but we didn’t know much about the military/astronaut wives back in the day. The press paraded their pretty faces in the back pages of newspapers. The drinking, the Valium and the divorces were kept under wraps. It was a watershed year for women, do you go all “Stepford Wife” or do you continue your education and put off marriage? Burn your bra, or pull up your girdle and soldier on?
Well there was a little known woman, an MIT scientist, behind the design of the software that made that Apollo mission possible. Margaret Hamilton and her team wrote the code for the computer’s guidance system on board the rocket. When NASA thought they may have to abort the landing, she figured out the computer’s memory was being overloaded with too much inconsequential data – she taught them how to prioritize! Landing went to the top of the list – isn’t it ironic?!
And this was when computers used “core rope memory” which was woven in a laborious process by hand, by women in factories…hence the male engineers called these memory programs “LOL Memory.” And it wasn’t because it was humorous. LOL stood for “Little Old Ladies.” http://www.vox.com/2015/5/30/8689481/margaret-hamilton-apollo-software
So here’s to you Margaret Hamilton! For going where no woman had gone before. And here’s to every girl who takes a science or a math class and loves it! In Catholic school, and later in high school, I was never given that opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I loved science. Back in 1969, I thought my future was secure. I’d be the wife of a Harvard lawyer and create cocktail parties to beat the band. Luckily, I woke up.