Margaret Hamilton

An American computer scientist, systems engineer and business owner, led the team that developed the on-board software for the Apollo Moon missions

Margaret Hamilton, an American computer scientist, systems engineer and business owner, led the team that developed the on-board software for the Apollo Moon missions.

In the 1960s Hamilton took a job with MIT as a developer on the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) project. SAGE was a system of large computers and networking equipment that pulled data from radars to produce a single image of the airspace over a wide area. This technology was eventually used by the military for anti-aircraft air defense against the Soviets during the Cold War. Hamilton's participation in this project catapulted her into her longstanding career as a computer programmer.

Hamilton then joined Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at MIT, where she began working as the lead software designer for the Apollo space mission. During the most critical moments of the Apollo 11 mission, it was Hamilton's priority alarm display that helped decide whether an alert the astronauts received just before they were to land on the Moon meant they should abort their mission. Thanks to Hamilton's system, the NASA team was able to see that the alert was nothing critical, and the landing went ahead.

President Obama gave Hamilton the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 to recognize her work saying she encapsulated the "American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy".

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