Margaret Hamilton, NASA's First Software Engineer
When it comes to Margaret Hamilton's career, she literally shoots for the moon. Hamilton discusses joining NASA as their first software engineer and creating the software that launched the Apollo 11 first manned mission to the moon.
- They announced that they were looking for people to do programming to send man to the moon, and I just thought wow, I've gotta go there. I grew up in the Midwest, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, upper peninsula. I just enjoyed school, but there was something about math that I just liked more than everything else. I liked deriving the answers, 'cause I didn't wanna memorize, it was too much. I was lazy. When my husband was in law school they wanted the law wives, my being one of them, to pour tea. And I said to my husband, no way am I pouring tea. I was a Harvard Law wife. If I go to Harvard Law School fine, I'll do what the men do, but I'm not gonna be put in that position, and was very proud of me that I had taken that stand. They announced that they were looking for people to do programming to send man to the moon. I was the first programmer they hired. I came up with the term software engineer, and it was considered a joke. What, software is engineering? Mostly men were working there and they had somebody at home to take care of their kids. I had no choice. I'd bring my daughter Lauren into work nights and weekends, and she'd see me playing astronaut to test the software, and doing the kinds of things the astronaut would do. So, she wanted to do it too, so she played astronaut. And all of a sudden everything came crashing on the simulator, and I realized that what she had done is that she selected the prelaunch program during flight. I said oh my god, this not good. We really need to put a protection in there 'cause the astronaut really could do what she did by mistake. I tried to get it through MIT/NASA. No, they said astronauts are trained never to make a mistake. There was an emergency. Everything happened that we thought would happen if they made the mistake, so then there was a decision, go, no-go, land, or don't land. Fortunately, the people at mission control trusted our software, and they said go, go, go. The software and the hardware worked perfectly. The software was on the ground and on the moon.
- [Neil] That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
- Her example speaks of the American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy who know that somehow to look beyond the heavens is to look deep within ourselves.
- Being fearless, even when the experts say no this doesn't make sense, they didn't believe it, nobody did. It was something that we were dreaming of happening, but it became real.
MAKERS amplifies the dialogue around harassment, equal pay and other urgent issues, pushing the women's movement forward. #RAISEYOURVOICE