The cover of Margaret and the Moon, and photo of Margaret Hamilton

New Children’s Book Celebrates Pioneering Apollo Programmer

Coinciding with the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a new children’s book, ‘Margaret and the Moon,’ written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Lucy Knisley, celebrates pioneering programmer Margaret Hamilton. A photo of her went viral last year. 

 

Margaret Hamilton stands next to the stack of code she wrote

Image Courtesy of NASA

 

“We associate the 1960s space program with men, both in orbit and behind the scenes, so it was revelatory to find that a woman had played such an important role,” Robbins told Space.com. “As a children’s author, I wondered if Hamilton’s career might be an inspiring story for kids.”

 

As there was so little information about Hamilton online, Robbins tracked her down himself. She has young grandchildren and liked the idea of the project.

 

Illustrations of Margaret Hamilton

Image Courtesy of Women You Should Know 

 

“Margaret told me wonderful stories that no one had ever reported, starting with her love of problem-solving as a child,” explains Robbins. “From an early age, she felt the unfairness of a world in which women had fewer opportunities than men, and she resolved to set things right. She made a point of joining the boys’ baseball team and even renamed some of the daddy longlegs she found in her yard as ‘mommy’ longlegs.”

 

As director of software programming for NASA’s Project Apollo and with the code she devised, Hamilton took Apollo 8 around the moon, helped Apollo 9 dock two spacecrafts, and maneuvered Apollo 9 within 9 miles of the lunar surface.

 

Hamilton’s biggest accomplishment was setting Apollo 11 in place on July 20, 1969, so that Neil Armstrong could take the first step. Thanks to Hamilton, the event went off without a hitch.

 

“As Apollo 11’s lunar module prepared to land on the moon, a miscue caused the guidance computer to overload. That might have led to disaster — either aborting the mission or crashing — but Hamilton’s brilliant work helped save the day,” he said. “Given her knack for anticipating problems, she had programmed the computer to ignore extraneous tasks in such a situation and to focus instead on the landing.”

 

Margaret Hamilton working on a computer

Image Courtesy of Kids Codes and Computer Science

 

Robbins hopes the book will promote Hamilton as a strong female role-model to young readers. “I hope the book inspires them to creatively solve problems the way Hamilton did, particularly girls who sometimes don’t get the encouragement they need in STEM or other fields. “

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Space.com and Amazon