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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

IEEE Honors Draper With Milestone Award for Apollo Guidance Computer

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) honored Draper Laboratory on Dec. 13 for the development of the computer that guided astronauts safely and accurately to the Moon during the Apollo missions.

At the initiative of the IEEE Boston Section, IEEE recognized the development of the Apollo Guidance Computer with one of its Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing, which recognize technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Previous IEEE Milestones celebrate the invention of the telephone and the development of the Internet.

The Apollo Guidance Computer was developed by engineers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which was renamed Draper Laboratory when the university spun it out in 1973.

Moshe Kam, IEEE president and CEO, described the Apollo computer during the ceremony as “one of the finest and most important machines ever devised.”

“We would have gotten there eventually, but the Apollo Guidance Computer got us there better, more efficiently, more elegantly, and much, much faster,” Kam said.

Darryl Sargent, Draper vice president for programs, noted that the Apollo Guidance Computer marked the first use of digital flight controls, which Draper later incorporated on spacecraft like NASA’s space shuttle, government and commercial aircraft, and manned and unmanned undersea vehicles.

“The engineers who developed this technology set a very high standard that those of us today are working very hard to match,” Sargent said during the ceremony.

For more information about IEEE’s Milestone Awards, please visit

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