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Virtual AGC — AGS — LVDC — Gemini

Documentation Quest!
or, Stalking the Wild AGC

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Where is the Apollo Project Documentation?

While the available online documentation is helpful and interesting, it is only a tiny fraction of the documentation produced by the Apollo project.  So where is the rest of it?

I don't actually know the full answer to the question posed above---for example, I don't currently know where many versions of the AGC source code is stored.  (Probably somewhere in the musty depths of Draper Labs, never to be viewed again by mortals such as you or I.)  But I do know where a lot of documentation is hiding. 

The Wonders of N.A.R.A.

A lot of U.S. government documentation is not thrown away, but rather is eventually retired to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  NARA maintains a number of centers about the country, in which the records for the geographical region associated with that center are stored.  I happen to live in Dallas, Texas, and since the Johnson Space Center (JSC)---formerly the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC)---is in the vicinity of Houston, my first hope was that perhaps JSC may have preserved some of the Apollo documentation.  Well, perhaps JSC has preserved such documentation---the extensive historical archive search engine on their website certain implies that they have!---but I was advised by the NASA history office that JSC's documentation would long since have been sent to the NARA center for the Southwest Region, which happens to be in Forth Worth, Texas, a mere hour from Dallas.   So I went over and looked.

It's difficult to believe the quantity of Apollo-related documentation to be found at NARA's Southwest Region center.  The NARA archivists measure it by shelf-foot rather than by document or by number of pages.  I can only assume that the amount of Apollo-related documentation lurking at the other NARA centers is equally staggering.

Indiana Jones

Normally, when you visit NARA, you're expected to know what you're looking for, so that the archivists can pull it from the stacks for you.  In other words, researchers such as myself are not allowed in the stacks.  I was lucky enough not to know exactly how to describe what I was looking for---namely, the AGC source code---but to know what it would look like when I saw it, so I had the privilege of being escorted into the stacks briefly for a visual survey of the MIT-related Apollo records.  It was much like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the ark of the covenant is wheeled into a vast warehouse where it can never be found again.  The main difference, though, is that NARA stacks are more packed and not so open and airy as the Raiders warehouse.  The NARA personnel (at least in the Southwest region) are, however, very friendly, and very eager to help you find what you are looking for.  I've never had any experience with governmental entities as pleasant as my experiences at NARA.

"Record Group 255"

A summary of the records transferred to NARA-Southwest from the Johnson Space Center---so-called Record Group 255---can be seen (in Microsoft Word format) by clicking here.   If you examine this summary, you'll find that the records for the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office---and these aren't all of the Apollo-related records, by any means---total an astounding 730 feet of shelf space.  (For some reason, the document linked above seems to double estimates of shelf-space, so you have to halve most of the estimates to get an accurate idea.)

Record Group 255 is subdivided into groupings identified by "entry numbers".  Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (ASPO) data begin at entry number E.205T5 ("general subject files") and end with entry number E.216 ("microfilm aperture cards of drawings"), but Apollo-related information may be found in many other groupings as well.  Each grouping is itself subdivided into a sequence of boxes; most of the boxes are 4" thick (i.e., capable of holding a 4"-thick stack of documents), though some boxes (like those holding "drawings" or microfilm) are much bigger.

Since M.I.T.'s Instrumentation Lab developed the AGC software, it seems logical to look for AGC data within the records designated E.209G, "Massachusetts Institute of Technology Documents"---fortunately, only 20 feet of shelf space.  The records within E.209G were never fully indexed when transferred from JSC to NARA, so I have prepared my own index, which you can view by clicking here.  The records for E.209G are stored in 59 four-inch-thick boxes, so to find any particular document, you need to know which box it is in, so that that box can be pulled from the stack.

I have scanned various documents from E.209G which are important to the Virtual Apollo project, but which aren't available elsewhere online, or which are only available in a corrupted form elsewhere online.  You can find these scans on my Links page.

Finding Aids

My goal in sifting through NARA's JSC holdings was, of course, to locate versions of Colossus and Luminary (and Sundisk and Skylark) software not previously available on the web.  In this, I was ultimately unsuccessful.  However, as I expanded my search beyond merely the MIT technical documentation described above, I found it expedient to create some finding aids that would let me come back (perhaps a few months or years) later and retrieve documents from NARA that are interesting but not immediately urgent.  (The red links were formerly not available at this site because of disk-space limitations, but should be available now.)
As you will perceive, these miserable little finding aids barely scratch the surface.  Perhaps 10-20% of documents are covered.  Drawings have not been covered at all.

Where's the AGC Software?

I would really like to have the software for each manned Apollo mission, including the Apollo-Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz missions.  Failing that, I'd like to have the software for Apollo 17---which, obviously, would be the "best" version of the software ever used on a lunar mission.  Failing that, I'd like to have matching LM and CM software for any lunar mission.  Failing that, I'd like to have a later version of Colossus than I have now.  Failing that ... any version other than the versions presently available online!

But I can't find any of it.  If you'd like to help me find the software, here are some random thoughts on the subject:
Mission MIT Designation (?)
NASA or MSC Part Number (?)
TRW Part Number (?)
Corona revision ???

3420.5-5, 28 March 1966
Apollo 1
Sunspot revision ???

Apollo 4
Solarium revision 055

Apollo 5
Sunburst revsion ???

Apollo 6
Solarium revision ???

Apollo 7
Sundisk revision ???

Apollo 8
Colossus 1 revision 237

Apollo 9
Colossus 1A revision 249

Apollo 9
Sundance revision 306

Apollo 10
Comanche (Colossus 2) revision 045

3420.5-27 Rev. 2, 20 November 1969
Apollo 10
Luminary 1 revision 069

Apollo 11
Comanche (Colossus 2A) revision 055

Apollo 11
Luminary 1A revision 099

Apollo 12
Comanche (Colossus 2B) revision ???

Apollo 12
Luminary 1B revision 116

Apollo 13
Comanche (Colossus 2C) revision 067

Apollo 13
Luminary 1C revision 131

Apollo 14
Comanche (Colossus 2D) revision 072

Apollo 14
Luminary 1D revision 178

Apollo 15-17
Artemis (Colossus 3) revision 072

Apollo 15-17
Luminary 1E revision 210

Skylark revision 48(?)

Skylark revision ???

Last modified by Ronald Burkey on 2009-08-17.

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