Raspberry Pi runs Apollo Guidance Computer code in this homemade DSKY

Feel like you’re running mission control with a homemade DSKY. This build runs the Colossus code — the very program that ran on the actual Apollo Guidance Computer.

apollo guidance dsky
Retro aesthetics: check

DSK-what?

The DSKY or display/keyboard, pronounced “diskey”, was the primary interface between Apollo astronauts and the computers on both the Command and Lunar Modules. During our visit to Space Center Houston last week, we got to see the perfectly preserved Mission Control room just as it was during the moon landing, and we can confirm this project has the aesthetics down.

Maker Eric takes us through the ups and downs of this build

Nice fact about that refurbished room: there’s a piece of mirror mounted above the water fountain that was gifted by the Apollo 13 crew. They wanted all the staff to see themselves in it every time they went for a drink and remember their heroic efforts to get them safely home. The accompanying plaque reads:

This mirror flown on Aquarius, LM-7, to the moon April 11-17, 1970. Returned by a greatful [sic] Apollo 13 crew to “reflect the image” of the people in Mission Control who got us back!

James Lovell John Swigert Fred Haise

Mission Control as it looked during the moon landing period.
(Sound on for a snippet about how much staff used to smoke at work back in the day)

When that crew came to visit Space Center Houston many years later, they were happy to see their gift had been preserved along with other period-specific details.

How does it work?

Back to this Raspberry Pi-powered build. An Arduino Nano runs the display screen and the warning lights, along with a SparkFun Pro Micro. Both talk to a Raspberry Pi which is running Virtual AGC. Virtual AGC provides computer simulations of the onboard guidance computers used in the Apollo Program’s lunar missions — it’s named, of course, after the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Apollo Guidance DSKY Adventure
Pointing at the most important part of the build

The DSKY is 3D-printed using these mount files, and it’s kitted out with these mechanical switches. The LED-backed interface is a separate kit.

Go on your own DSKY adventure

Make your own DSKY! The maker Eric has published instructions, a parts lists, and a YouTube playlist detailing each part of the build on GitHub.

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