Jack Garman

Apollo Guidance Computer

Jack Garman

Jack Garman receives an award from Chris Kraft, Director of Flight Operations, after Apollo 8.


John R. (Jack) Garman’s NASA career began with the Apollo Guidance Computer, but after Apollo continued to computer hardware, software engineering and management positions supporting the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. At retirement from NASA, Jack was Chief Information Officer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

His “fifteen seconds of fame” came during the Apollo 11 powered descent to the lunar surface. Computer alarms from the LM computer threatened to abort the landing, but Jack, in the AGC Staff Support Room, called a “GO”. Steve Bales (“Guidance”) in the MOCR relayed the “GO” to Flight Director Gene Kranz.

This interview was recorded on April 14th 2014. Hear it below in 5 sections.

Interview Part 1 – Early days with NASA

audio part 1 (13.3 minutes, 6.4MB mp3 file)

Getting into computing.
Joining NASA, early days.
05:55 – Atmosphere at Houston.
07:45 – Apollo 8.

Interview Part 2 – Apollo 11

audio part 2 (20.7 minutes, 10MB mp3 file)

The story of the Program Alarms which threatened to abort the first manned lunar landing attempt.

Jack Garman

Jack Garman is second from the left (wearing a coat) in this 1969 view of the AGC Staff Support Room in Building 30 at MSC Houston.

Computer alarm cheat sheet

Jack Garman’s Computer Alarm Cheat Sheet, as discussed from 04:10 in the above audio file. (Updated scan, August 2015.)

Jack Garman’s Apollo 11 descent and landing console audio

Stereo sound file.

audio Good quality (64 minutes, 31MB mp3 file, 64kb/s.)

audio Better quality (64 minutes, 62MB mp3 file, 128kb/s.)

This audio begins just before CSM acquisition on the landing revolution (Lunar Orbit 10), and lasts 64 minutes, ending 33 minutes after touchdown.

Jack’s console audio is on the left channel. The Flight Director’s loop audio is on the right, starting 13:36 into the file, and ending 39:30 into the file.

23:24 – Neil Armstrong calls the first 1202 Program Alarm.
23:38 – Jack Garman gives a GO.
24:11 – Another 1202.
27:20 – First 1201 Alarm (Jack: “Same type, we’re GO.”)
27:56 – Another 1202 alarm. Jack, “Roger, no sweat.”
30:43 – Contact light and touchdown.
38:16 – “Hey Jack, thank God we had that meeting!” – Steve Bales.

Some minor adjustments were made to the audio. *

Interview Part 3 – Apollo 13

audio part 3 (2.5 minutes, 1.3MB mp3 file)

Reconfiguring the computer from a lunar landing to a return path.

Interview Part 4 – Apollo 14

audio part 4 (4.2 minutes, 2.1MB mp3 file)

Averting potential disaster as Antares prepares to undock for landing.

Jack Garman

Jack receives an award from Apollo 14 Commander Alan B Shepard after the mission.

NASA Deputy Administrator George Low looks on.

Interview Part 5 – After Apollo

audio part 5 (7.6 minutes, 3.7MB mp3 file)

Shuttle, software, compilers and digital simulators.
Space Station, then Chief Information Officer (CIO) at JSC.
Then ten years with Lockhead contracted to NASA.

Jack Garman

Photo: Jack Garman, November 2013.

Interview recorded and edited by Colin Mackellar, April 2014.

With grateful thanks to Jack Garman for his time, the scans, and for his console audio.

* Notes on processing of the console audio:

– the level of the left channel was boosted, and the right channel decreased to make it easier to hear comms on the Back Room loop. A 60Hz hum was reduced.

Note also that for the first 90 seconds or so of the file, on the left channel, a faint copy of the air/ground audio, offset by 66 seconds, is audible. Audio processing by Colin Mackellar.

Thanks to Jack Garman and NASA for the audio. An unprocessed version is available – and you can read more – at the NASA Office of Logic Design’s website.

(For the corresponding Network Controller’s loop, see here.)