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Apollo’s technological legacyApollo’s technological legacy

Freeze-dried foods make a nice addition to any pilot’s survival kit, but avionics driven by microchips and fly-by-wire technology are the Apollo program’s most lasting technological legacy in the aviation world.

Many of the technologies used by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission have found their way into everyday modern life. AOPA composite of NASA courtesy photo and AOPA file photo.

Fifty years after Apollo 11 made mankind’s first lunar landing, space race spinoffs have become so familiar we take them for granted. The sophisticated glass cockpits available today might not have arrived so quickly had the Apollo program not needed integrated circuits, the forerunners of the microchip. Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments demonstrated the first working integrated circuit, developed to meet U.S. Department of Defense and NASA specifications seeking increased computing power and weight reduction. Kilby later won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Digital fly-by-wire technology would not be possible without inertial sensing and digital navigation guidance, and both of these foundational technologies were developed for Apollo.

Apollo-driven technology can also be found today in a host of other areas of daily life. Highlights include:

  • Protective gear for firefighters
  • Battery-powered tools
  • Programmable pacemakers
  • Modern dialysis
  • Advanced water filtration
  • Solar panels
  • Retractable stadium roofs
  • Reflective home insulation
  • Energy-efficient buildings
  • Insulation used on the Alaskan pipeline
  • Exercise equipment
  • Modern athletic shoes
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Modern lubricants

(Information from NASA and Medium.)

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Technology

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