I saw on t.v. a description of the computer used in the first travel to the moon.

I wonder if modern devices such as an smarthphone have already that same capacity?

Does anyone have a link where can I see this information? Like Today iPhone == Fist computer used in space and so on?

  • without having benchmarks at hand right now: the power of the simplest mobile phone should outperform the stuff which was used to bring humans onto the moon. so, any smartphone you are holding in your hands these days have enormous processing power compared to what was available long time ago. – akira Jun 9 '10 at 16:17
  • I'm pretty sure a cellphone of about 10 years ago could seriously outperform all of the computers that have been sent up into space as the computers on the shuttles have to be incredibly low power as they cannot get rid of heat as easily as those on Earth. They were supposedly something like a 4MHz processor, I'll try and hunt down an article I read on it... – Mokubai Jun 9 '10 at 17:12
  • It's not an issue of head dissipation, it's an issue of radiation hardness, and reliability. Cosmic rays and other radiation impingement on silicon causes defects, and over time they gradually damage any computer chips. Thermal dissipation is relevant, but it's fairly easy to deal with, and besides, heat production is not linearly related to speed, as it's much more a function of the fab process. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hardening – Fake Name Jun 10 '10 at 7:53

There are a number of references. This one for the Appolo missions Apollo Computer

There is also Apollo Power

There are many comparison I have seen over the years and it is likely that many smart phones are more powerful that systems used today for space missions


Depending on how you measure "power", the answer could vary, but today's smartphones are THOUSANDS of times more powerful than the computer used in the Apollo missions. The Apollo guidance computer had 2KB of memory and ran at about 1 MHz. By comparison, the latest iPhone version has 256 MB of memory (128,000 times as much as Apollo), and runs at around 1 GHz (1,000 times as fast).


To be fair, computers these days (including my Blackberry from 2005) spend more resources on silly things like user interfaces, unlike the on-board navigation computer in the Apollo capsules, which was dedicated to the task of navigating through space. Really, it was a calculator that was programmed for a specific task more than what you or I would consider a computer.

At the same time, using that computer was a royal pain. And really, if you understood hexidecimal code and the way computers work to a really, really deep level, maybe then you could use it like you knew what you were doing. The apollo astronauts on the other hand, just had a bunch of computer engineers on the other end of a radio link. And a six second delay in communicating with them.


Well, the space shuttle runs on only 1MB of RAM, all of the processors used in shuttles look conspicuously low power.

Wikipedia describes the Space Shuttle computer systems:

The shuttle uses five identical redundant IBM 32-bit general purpose computers (GPCs), model AP-101, constituting a type of embedded system.

The IBM AP-101 computers originally had about 424 kilobytes of magnetic core memory each. The CPU could process about 400,000 instructions per second. They have no hard disk drive, and load software from magnetic tape cartridges.

In 1990, the original computers were replaced with an upgraded model AP-101S, which has about 2.5 times the memory capacity (about 1 megabyte) and three times the processor speed (about 1.2 million instructions per second). The memory was changed from magnetic core to semiconductor with battery backup.

The Space Shuttle computer system could probably be put to shame by the processor that handles the encrypted GSM communications in a non-smartphone, let alone the fully GUI-ified sweetness that is a modern smartphone.

Most processors for space hardware have to be low power to be able to shed heat fast enough, the convection currents needed to remove heat naturally don't work in space, and using a motorized fan is just generating more heat to remove a little so just shifts the problem slightly (to all the components around the system that can't shed heat themselves). Generating more heat to remove some heat isn't something that can be done in such a small environment, heck, we're doing a good job at roasting an entire planet, let alone a small tin can in space.

I remember reading, but don't remember where, that the majority of processing for these types of systems is done groundside, with simple instructions on what to actually do being sent up to ships and satellites, so a satellite is a simple message relay with little or no active intelligence.


I also remember an article that stated that the greeting cards that have the little recorded messages or music snippets in them contain more computing processing power than existed on the entire planet in 1943/

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