The Woman Responsible For Coding The Software That Landed Apollo 11 On The Moon Was Awarded The Medal Of Freedom

November 23, 2016

Today, Margaret H. Hamilton — the lead for MIT's nascent software engineering division, who wrote software for Apollo 11's guidance and navigation, and also the person who coined the term 'software engineering' — was awarded the United States' highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," Obama said.

Hamilton's team at MIT was responsible for developing in-flight software, which included algorithms designed by various senior scientists for the Apollo command module, lunar lander, and the subsequent Skylab. Another part of her team designed and developed the systems software which included the error detection and recovery software such as restarts and the Display Interface Routines (AKA the Priority Displays) which Hamilton designed and developed.

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Hamilton standing next to the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo project / Credit: MIT

For a quick summary of what she did and all her struggles to get there, SciShow made a nice video about her accomplishments:

Other recipients of the award included Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bruce Springsteen.

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