Ed Copps with Color

Ed Copps

Pioneer of Guidance and GPS

Ed Copps was only 24 when he began working at the Instrumentation Lab at MIT. Before he worked on the Apollo computer guidance systems, he worked on the Polaris Missile Project. While working on the guidance system, Copps’s job was to determine which tasks were the most important and what would be left on the computer storage so that the astronaut crews would be able to do their jobs and still bring themselves back to earth in the off chance that communications were down. This included early autopilot, and the memory depended on the number of words within the program. Copps became an Associate Director of the IL in 1966, where he ensured that the Modules were developed and tested on schedule. He was in charge of expanding the program to make that happen; structuring the program testing and personnel accordingly.

In 1969, just before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Copps left the IL and founded Intermetrics with some of his IL co-workers. They worked on software development for NASA’s space shuttle and developed the HAL/S programming language (named for old coworker and friend Hal Lanning). Copps’ work also led to him earning the soft title of “the Father of GPS.”