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SUNBURST and LUMINARY - An Apollo Memoir

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  91 ratings  ·  15 reviews
A New Perspective on the Space Program in the 1960s Fresh out of college, the author goes to work for the MIT laboratory that designed the Apollo guidance system. His assignment is to program the complex lunar landing phase in the Lunar Module's onboard computer. As he masters his art the reader learns about the computer, the mission, and a bit about spacecraft navigation ...more
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Fort Point Press, Bostom
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Gary Schroeder
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book covers the nuts and bolts of the guidance software written for the Apollo Lunar Module as told by one of its principal architects, a fresh-out-of-college-graduate by the name of Don Eyles. In the late 1960s, computer memory in a system required to be no more than one cubic foot in volume was extraordinarily valuable, almost as valuable as onboard fuel for a moon mission. Logical acrobatics had to be conducted to save a few bits here and a few bits there to leave enough open registers t ...more
issa
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could spend a year and not come up with a title so brilliant and beautiful as Sunburst and Luminary.

Of course, these words are “merely” two of the names given to the Apollo Lunar Guidance Computer software, but considered both within and devoid of that technical context, little changes.

Thankfully, the same can be said for the book itself: at once deemed unsuitable for publication for being too technical and weedy yet full of beautiful bursts of prose and humanity, Sunburst and Luminary integra
...more
Cale Mooth
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly detailed view into the software development process of the Lunar Module landing programs. Code samples and illustrations help supplement the written portion of the book. If you've built software, you'll notice all the same risks and pitfalls existed then just as they do now. (Staging/simulators are never a good substitute for production hardware environments.) Having seen a launch up close, I appreciated the detailed descriptions of driving around the Cape and wandering thr ...more
Daren Fulwell
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tech-history
Fantastic read! For anyone with an interest in the Moon landings, in the development of computer technology, or in the late 60s culture generally, Eyles tells a story that weaves counterculture into the fabric of the greatest technological achievements of mankind to date.

He manages to tell a very technical story from a very human standpoint, and strengthens the argument that no engineering achievement can be taken in a purely scientific context - the human element is vitally important, for its
...more
Ian
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sunburst and Luminary is a memoir of Don Eyles’ involvement with the development of the Apollo Lunar Modules’ flight control software starting from 1966 on past the end of the last mission to the moon. He was a young 23 year old when he joined and he became the person most responsible for software for the different landing phases.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It appeals to the software designer that I am. I started my software career in the late 80s but I grew up during the Gemini and Apo
...more
Andrew O'reilly
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So much of what has been written about Apollo has been either from the perspective of the astronauts or from the flight controllers, yet Apollo was first and foremost an engineering achievement.

This book provides a fascinating insight into one aspect of that engineering achievement, namely the software that was written to guide the lunar lander to the surface of the moon after it undocked from command module. Anybody interested in the Apollo program or the history of software engineering will no
...more
Stuart
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: apollo
Great book for enthusiasts of the Apollo project particularly the development of the Lunar Lander software. The Author explains how the software and systems work with a background the late 1960s culture, of frequent meetings with the Apollo astronauts and other well known characters, details of the development team, his love life and analysis of the software related problems, their fixes and near disasters.

It really brings to life the work of computer programmer, whose first program was the luna
...more
Pito Salas
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book if you are into computers and space. Very personal and very technical account of one of the lead developers who worked on and wrote most of the software that controlled the lunar lander.
Alex
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really great read on history of computing. The hardware limits for the moon landing were truly eye-popping.

The author’s frequent asides about the women he was sleeping with at the time are bizarre, and honestly, a little offputting.
George Grider
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous read

A sometimes difficult read, but it pays off, especially for those of us who watched as the Apollo program blossomed, along with the 1960s counter culture. A must read for nerds and old hippies alike.
Michael
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Neat insight into a revolutionary time and place.
Jason
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not sure why the author felt the need to brag about his various "conquests" ...they distracted from the story.
NSFW
...more
Brian Lester
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read!
Rense Posthumus
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book true but sad conclusion

Makes one humble to read how little processing power they had for the Apollo. Great read on the technical details of ACG/moonlanding Algorithms. But Don is right: it was the free culture that made it possible to do. Alas no more of that in these days.
Don Eyles
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, it's my book and I think it's terrific. It will interest anyone interested in the history of the Apollo project, and anyone who is part of the contemporary digital culture and wants to know more about its foundation myths. ...more
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