A slip of the fingers

On one occasion, while Apollo 8 was returning home, Jim Lovell was continuing with his program of navigation exercises. As he punched away at the DSKY, its attitude light went out. "For some reason,'' he called to Mike Collins in mission control, "we suddenly got a Program 01 and no attitude light on our computer.''

Program 01 was only meant to be used at the start of a mission to initialise the IMU platform. In effect, the computer had lost its knowledge of which way was up.

"Stand by one, Jim,'' said Collins. "We're working on a procedure for getting you cranked back up again.''


Lovell had meant to enter Program 23, the navigation program, and then use Star 01. A slip of the fingers and a couple of missing keystrokes meant that he had entered Program 01 in error. Unfortunately, there was no Undo button. In view of the huge amount of work Lovell had to do on this pioneering flight, and his disrupted sleep patterns, an occasional slip was to be expected. At least it had occurred when it had no impact on the mission. To recover from the error, he had to realign the platform, and mission control had to uplink a new REFSMMAT and check other data in memory because of what the computer had forgotten during the reset, all of which took about an hour of their 3-day coast home.

With humour, both Borman and Anders never let Lovell forget his error, constantly ribbing him about it for the rest of the journey.

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