You may have read of the passing last weekend of Ted Sorensen, advisor to (and who some consider co-president with) President John F. Kennedy. It set me to thinking about last year when I had the privilege of hearing him speak at MIT during a 40th anniversary commemoration of the first Apollo lunar landing.
While having suffered a stroke some years earlier, Sorensen's intellect and wit were still intact as he described the presidential decision process, reaction of the country to the challenge, and pros and cons of having committed the nation to landing a man on the moon during the decade of the '60s. (This, along with resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the push for the Civil Rights Act, he considers the most significant achievements of Kennedy's New Frontier administration.)
Sorensen was tasked by the president to come up with a program that could demonstrate to the world the technological prowess of the U.S. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was in full competition, part of which was winning the hearts and minds of new nations (former colonies) and their leaders. The group headed by Sorensen chose a lunar landing as providing the most benefit and visibility—and the legacy of Apollo, both technological and inspirational, is now history.
You can watch that informative and fascinating commemorative speech which is posted at the MIT Web site. Just click on the link below and scroll the cursor to 37 minutes to start his comments, which last a half hour—you'll be impressed with the man and enthralled with the story. And if you have the time, view the rest of the video which features first-person accounts on the challenges of developing the Apollo hardware and flying each mission into unknown territory. Link here
Another Apollo pioneer recently passed away, Joe Gavin, former president of Grumman who headed up Lunar Module development. He was at the same forum as Ted Sorensen. So if you go to the video link in the original blog above, and scroll to 1 hour, 37 minutes, you'll find his presentation on Lunar Module engineering--and how it worked every time, even as the Apollo 13 lifeboat.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.