A magazine about programmers, code, and society. Written by humans since 2018.

Issue 063: Space

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Issue 063: Space

Welcome to the sixty-third issue of De Programmatica Ipsum, about Space. In this edition, we ask ourselves how much rocket science is required to write quality code. In the Library section, we review the impact of "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan in our society. And in our Vidéothèque section, we listen to Margaret Hamilton telling us stories about software engineering and Moon landings.

Rocket Science

Space exploration and computers are inextricable. It is unthinkable, at least with our level of understanding, to imagine one without the other. It is no surprise that both grew together, mutually reinforcing one another, precisely at the same point in human history. Being the most complex undertaking ever attempted by Humanity, involving the juggling of so many balls in the air at once, computers became our allies to make space travel a reality.

Margaret Hamilton

On Sunday, July 20th, 1969, at precisely 20:14:19 UTC, just a mere three minutes before touchdown, the voice of Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. confirmed the "Go for landing" order received from Mission Control together with a phrase nobody wanted to hear at that moment: "Program alarm - 1201."

Carl Sagan

The news of a software patch uploaded to the Voyager probes reminded me of a 1980 book telling precisely the story of how their journey began 46 years ago. When said book hit the publishing press, Voyager 1 had just finished its flyby of Saturn, a planet which Voyager 2 was about to survey a few months later. Assisted by gravity slingshots, the latter probe would reach Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. Both Voyagers would cross the Heliopause decades later, one in 2012, and the other in 2018. Against all odds, they are both beeping back to Earth as you read these lines.

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