The Go to Moon Interface

In 1965 a training session with the astronauts at the IL left one engineer confused. He was responsible for training the astronauts on the command module simulator for guidance and navigation, and noted how ''proper operation of the G&N [guidance and navigation] essentially makes the astronaut a passenger.'' Then he asked for advice. ''The astronauts seem to have an 'I want to fly it' attitude. This would occur only if G&N failed. Are we to train them to operate the G&N system, or train them to use everybody else's system when/if G&N fails, or both?''50 How could you teach someone to use a machine that required nothing of him when working, and everything of him when broken? The appropriate user interface for the Apollo computer was far from obvious: chauffeurs or airmen?

The IL had built its expertise with inertial guidance systems, largely for missiles. Nobody flew an ICBM. With Apollo, the computer would have a user to input commands, request data, and ask the computer to do things that might be difficult to predict in advance. ''We had a hard time getting used to the concept of somebody sitting there,'' Copps recalled, ''banging on the keyboard, getting answers back, banging something else in and asking questions.''51 The Apollo computer would have to interact.

Initially, Kosmala pictured the spacecraft with one button: ''The astronaut goes in, turns the computer on and says 'Go to moon' and then sits back and watches while we did everything.'' Another version has the computer running two programs—''P00'' to go to the moon, and ''P01'' to return home. These humorous descriptions capture one extreme of the engineers' view of the computer, one that didn't last long once the astronauts got involved in the design.52

John Miller remembered a constant battle. ''The astronauts on one side wanted to fly the vehicle, I mean, they were test pilots____On the Instrumentation [Lab] side, were, you know, automatic control... we're going to run this thing and the computer will run the thing. That battle went on kind of constantly.''53 An IL cartoon humorously captures the chauffeurs versus airmen extremes: one panel shows full automation, the astronauts smoking cigars and falling asleep, staring at the abort button. The next panel shows no automation, the astronauts overwhelmed by dials, indicators, charts, printouts, and inputs (figure 7.6a, b). The Apollo computer would have to operate somewhere between these extremes. But where?

Early in the 1960s, Charles Stark Draper himself and some colleagues had begun looking at the appropriate human role in aircraft and space systems, ''as an off-line, parallel, complementary observer and actuator.'' To be an effective monitor, the human had to have some means to intervene in the system in order to take corrective action when problems arose. Draper and his colleagues used the word overseer;but the term supervisor became increasingly popular. Both evoke the relationship of a master to a slave, or a manager to a worker.54

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