Alex Kosmala with Apollo Guidance Computer Code

Alex Kosmala

Programmer Who Put it All Together

Alex Kosmala arrived at the Instrumentation Lab (now Draper) in 1960 as a visiting engineer from Elliott Bros, a British aerospace company that was working on the Polaris program. He earned a degree in low temperature physics and assignments were involved with the processing accelerometer data for the Polaris Missile. In 1961 he returned to England. He was persuaded to return the IL in 1963 as a regular staff member by Dan Lickly to work on the Apollo missions, despite having little experience with computers.

In the Lab there were groups of 5-6 people working on and developing the software for different parts of the mission such as powered flight, launch, and reentry. It was Kosmala's responsibility (as one of the first “rope mothers”) to create and test code that would integrate all the various parts into the flight program for the first guided (though unmanned) flight, AS-202. This was a critical task that took five months of all-out effort. 

After Apollo, Kosmala continued to work on navigation systems, leaving the Instrumentation Lab and helping found Intermetrics in 1969. Kosmala ended his career working for MITRE on Air Force projects until 1998, when he retired to Maine.