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IBM celebrates tech behind first U.S. manned space flight

Sharon Gaudin | May 6, 2011
As NASA marks the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. manned space flight, IBM is celebrating the mathematicians and engineers who helped make it happen.

To provide real-time information to Mission Control, the IBM team built and ran three large-scale computers that funneled in all flight information. There were two 7090 transistorized computers installed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and a 709 computer at the Bermuda Control Center, which acted as a backup to the project's Mission Control facility at Cape Canaveral.

Cohen remembers the entire project as an incredible amount of painstaking work.

"It was a tremendous amount of work," he said. "We sometimes worked 36 hours straight or more. As we got closer to launch, we were waiting for liftoff to occur and we couldn't leave the computing centers, so sometimes we had to sleep there with the computers.... There was a lot of suspense involved as we anticipated a man going on top of a rocket. We knew the computer systems would work, but we were in suspense of the first U.S. man going to space."


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