As a 27-year-old MIT computer expert, Don Eyles had the unequaled distinction of saving the Apollo 14 mission. A quick-thinking mathematical genius, he worked at Draper Labs, the place commissioned by NASA to write the computer code that would take us to the moon. Since graduating Boston University in 1966, Don specialized in writing those invaluable programs for what Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott later referred to as “the most dangerous part of walking on the moon,” landing the LM on the lunar surface.
When the abort switch unexpectedly jammed on Apollo 14, Eyles was tasked with writing a new program on the fly rendering the faulty “abort” request invisible to the computer. His lightning-fast analytical skills enabled the crew to land as planned, with Don completing the task a mere ten minutes before the lunar module was scheduled to descend. After the Apollo 13 disaster prevented a landing, Eyles was considered a hero for saving the follow-up mission, even gaining celebrity status: Rolling Stone wrote an article about him in March, 1971.
One could even go so far as to say it was because of Eyles that future Apollo missions were kept on track, as two failures back-to-back and an already wary public would have had placed the program’s future in serious question. Don saw the monumental Apollo program through from beginning to end—Apollo 5 through Apollo 17—and chronicled his incredible experiences in his book, “Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir.”
RR is honored to offer The Don Eyles Collection in our October Space Exploration Auction, including various mission-used manuals, unique computer program printouts, and an amazing Block II prototype Apollo Guidance Computer—a museum-worthy piece deserving of a place in the most distinguished Space collection.