To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Google is shining light to one of the women whose work made the historic moon landing a success: Margaret Hamilton.
A Glowing Tribute
On Thursday, July 18, the tech company unveiled a massive portrait of the software engineer at the Ivanpah Solar Facility in the Mojave Desert in California. It used more than 107,000 solar mirrors that reflected the moonlight and form her image.
Google said that the tribute spanned 1.4 square miles (or about 3.62 square kilometers), which is bigger than Central Park in New York and big enough to fit more than 200 Eiffel Towers.
How Margaret Hamilton's Code Put Men On The Moon
Hamilton is a mathematician and computer programmer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She led the team that created the onboard flight software that NASA used for the Apollo missions in the 60s, including Apollo 11. She coined the term "software engineering" to add legitimacy to their work.
A working mother at the time, she regularly brought her young daughter, Lauren, to the office during the weekends. Lauren liked to pretend like she was an astronaut and play with the simulator that her mother used to test in-flight programs.
One day, Lauren crashed pressed a button that set off a prelaunch program while mid-flight, crashing the simulator. This led Hamilton to modify her strategy. She added code that would have prevented something similar from happening during a mission.
This proved to be critical to the success of Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, minutes before Neil Armstrong took that historical first test, the computer processor onboard the lunar module nearly overloaded and almost forced the mission to be aborted. However, the software's emergency preparedness allowed Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land safely on the surface of the Moon.
The software developed by Hamilton and her team at MIT was the most sophisticated during the day. No software bugs occurred on any crewed Apollo missions.
"There was no second chance. We knew that," Hamilton recalled in 2009. " We had to find a way and we did. Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world; there was no choice but to be pioneers; no time to be beginners."
In 2016, Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama for her contribution to the successful landing of Apollo 11.
Congrats Margaret Hamilton on receiving the #MedalofFreedom today! You helped us make a 'giant leap' on moon landing https://t.co/Nh3ezsn96O pic.twitter.com/5tE7tBv6mp — NASA (@NASA) November 22, 2016
Here is a footage from the giant art installation.