Draper Engineers Who Saved Apollo 14

In Their Own Words: Peter Volante on Apollo 14

Peter Volante
Don Eyles Receives an Award at Boston City Hall
Bruce McCoy
Apollo 14 Astronaut Alan Shepard
Apollo 14 Astronaut Stuart Roosa
Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

Peter Volante worked in computer science and software engineering at Draper during the Apollo Program.

"During Apollo 14, the lunar module instrument panel had an abort switch that the crew would use to terminate the landing sequence if a problem arose during descent.  When the abort switch failed as Apollo 14 was preparing for the landing, it sent a false signal to the guidance computer commanding it to abort the landing. So if the landing sequence were started, it would have immediately recognized the abort command and initiated the Lunar Ascent program to return to a safe orbit.

I have to say that my role in the response was largely to sit and watch as Don Eyles devised a method to work around the problem and allow the landing to proceed successfully. It was an amazing feat, particularly as there was only about two hours to define the procedure, test it, and get it down to Mission Control in Houston, but Don knew the code like the back of his hand, and came up with an ingenious solution.

Afterwards my colleague Bruce McCoy said to me that we could have figured it out if we had two weeks to do it, but Don did it in about ninety minutes. My contribution to the effort was that when Don had worked out the procedure, which required the crew to enter a series of commands at certain points in the landing sequence,  Sam Drake and I went up to the LM hybrid simulator and tried it out.  The simulator let you play astronaut. We ran through it several times and made one small change.

And that was my big moment."