Meet Margaret Hamilton: The Woman Behind the Apollo Project

Margaret Hamilton, lead Apollo flight software engineer, in the Apollo Command Module.
Margaret Hamilton, lead Apollo flight software engineer, in the Apollo Command Module.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When man (or more specifically, a man) stepped foot on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, software was a relatively new development. In fact, the Moon mission was one of the first times this kind of engineering was used in such a fundamental—not to mention high-stakes—way. History was being written that day, and a woman named Margaret Hamilton had authored the code that made it possible.

Hamilton was born in 1936, and received a B.A. in math from Earlham College. She taught herself to program before becoming the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed software for the NASA Apollo programs.

In the photo below, Hamilton stands with printouts of the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer—the same code that helped us reach the Moon—which was developed by the team that she led, and much of which she wrote herself. This shot was taken during the Apollo 11 mission, when Hamilton was 33 years old. Her code ran in one of the first ever chip-based computers, which had only 64 kilobytes of memory.

Hamilton, who was among the first women to join the world of software development, was a modern day pioneer. She is even credited with coining the term software engineering. For her contributions to the field, Hamilton received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association of Women in Computing in 1986, the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award in 2003, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America's highest civilian honor) in 2016.

In 2014, Hamilton was interviewed by El País about the attention she has received from the circulation of her photo online. She explained:

"Software during the early days of this project was treated like a stepchild and not taken as seriously as other engineering disciplines, such as hardware engineering; and it was regarded as an art and as magic, not a science. I had always believed that both art and science were involved in its creation, but at that time most thought otherwise. Knowing this, I fought to bring the software legitimacy so that it (and those building it) would be given its due respect and thus I began to use the term “software engineering” to distinguish it from hardware and other kinds of engineering; yet, treat each type of engineering as part of the overall systems engineering process. When I first started using this phrase, it was considered to be quite amusing. It was an ongoing joke for a long time. They liked to kid me about my radical ideas. Software eventually and necessarily gained the same respect as any other discipline."

Hamilton also wrote that the Apollo 11 mission had the "most exciting, memorable moments on the Apollo project," but that Apollo 8 was a close second.

This story has been updated for 2019.

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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NASA's Juno Probe Captures Stunning New Look at Jupiter's Swirling Atmosphere

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Upon entering Jupiter's orbit in 2016, NASA's Juno spacecraft provided us with an intimate look at the largest planet in our solar system. Four years later, the probe continues to shed light on the gas giant. Two new pictures taken by the JunoCam show Jupiter's swirling, iridescent atmosphere in striking detail, and they're raising new questions about the planet's composition, Space.com reports.

The first image, captured on February 17, 2020, shows bands of haze particles extending above the main level of Jupiter's eddying clouds. NASA scientists aren't sure what these bands might be, but one theory is that they're the byproduct of the jet stream bands that have been known to form around the same spot.

Close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
A close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS; image processing by Gerald Eichstädt

In the second picture, taken on April 10, Jupiter's upper atmosphere is shown in even clearer definition. Different types of clouds can be picked out of the abstract scene; the smaller, brighter clouds that appear to rise up from the edges of the swirling patterns are called "pop-up" clouds.

Close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
A tapestry of various types of clouds.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Juno has performed more than 25 close fly-bys of Jupiter. Thanks to the data the spacecraft has gathered, we now know the planet's poles are covered by Texas-sized ammonia cyclones, and that its interior is much different from what was previously believed.

[h/t Space.com]