Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Engineering Lessons from Apollo

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on another world. Billions of people tuned in live to watch Apollo 11 land on the moon, but behind Armstrong’s ‘one small step’ lay a decade of astonishing innovation. The Apollo programme wasn’t just about aerospace engineering; it was also responsible for revolutionary new approaches in project management and quality control; new ways of thinking about testing strategies and communications - not to mention delivering a completely bespoke set of hardware and software components that would play a vital role at every stage of the programme.

As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landings, let’s take a look back at the technology, processes and practises behind the Apollo programme - and how many of those techniques are still relevant today. What is ‘all-up testing’, and how does it apply to modern software development? Who was the CAPCOM - and what can they teach us about product ownership? How do you manage a distributed team of nearly half a million people? How do you manage scope creep when you’re working to a hard deadline with the whole world watching you? And how DO you fly to the moon and back using a computer with less processing power than an Apple II?