Peter Vernam Employee Card

Peter Vernam

Software Engineer

Peter Vernam came to work in computer science at the Instrumentation Lab in 1968 after graduating from MIT. He started with Apollo 6 and never looked back. Vernam’s job was taking data from the spacecraft’s navigator and putting it into computer programs. The group Vernam worked with was responsible for analyzing the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) performance during and after flights. They were able to see exactly what the navigator saw and determine if there was anything wrong with the measurements. One time it was so wrong that, if they had been using the data for the reentry process, the spacecraft wouldn't have made it back to Earth. While using the AGC for reentry didn’t happen until Apollo 16 or 17, double-checking the data early on became incredibly important in preparing for a future of autonomous flight.

Vernam retired from Draper in 2018, 50 years after he joined the MIT/Draper family.