Computers in Spaceflight:The NASA Experience



[vii] The Editors have taken the unusual step of devoting an entire Supplement volume of the Encyclopedia to a single topic: "Computers in Spaceflight: the NASA Experience." The reason will hopefully become apparent upon reading this volume. NASA's use of computer technology has encompassed a long period starting in 1958. During this period, hardware and software developments in the computer field were progressing through successive generations. A review of spaceflight applications of these developments offers a panoramic insight into almost two decades of change in the computer industry and into NASA's role.

NASA's role is summarized at the conclusion of this volume:


"NASA never asked for anything that could not be done with the current technology. But in response, the computer industry sometimes pushed itself just a little in a number of areas. Just a little better software development practices made onboard software safe, just a little better networking made the Launch Processing System more efficient, just a little better operating system made mission control easier, just a little better chip makes image processing faster. NASA did not push the state of the art, but nudged it enough times to make a difference."


This report could not be compressed to typical article size without destroying its usefulness and interest. We trust that the readers will find this work to be as fascinating as did the editors.



Allen Kent
James G. Williams

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