Local Programmer Reflects On John Glenn Mission 50 Years Later

BOSTON (CBS) – Fifty years ago Monday, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

This weekend, members of the team that helped make that happen gathered at The Kennedy Space Center.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports.

In the 1960’s, Lucy Simon Rakov was a mathematician called upon to use her extensive expertise to help design the computer program that tracked the Mercury Atlas rocket as it launched John Glenn into orbit.

“John Glenn and Scott Carpenter spoke to us. This was fascinating to me too because we met John Glenn’s personal physician. We met people… who worked on creating the rockets,” said Rakov. “It was fascinating because it was the first time I had been able to meet those people.”

Rakov, who is now in her 70’s, was one of a handful of┬ámostly unrecognized women who worked on the project, which she said was simply amazing.

“What we created was the first, real-time programming system. We had to take in the medical data from the astronauts. We had to take in radar data from the radar stations… and we did it with less computing than you have in your iPhone today,” said Rakov.

This weekend’s celebration of the Mercury project was the first time Rakov had actually visited the Kenendy Space Center. Most of her work was done remotely.


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