Engadget’s Nathan Ingraham recently reported that a piece of RANAM (Random Access Non-Destructive Readout) from NASA’s Gemini 3 spacecraft is up for auction. The RANAM – containing 4096 bits of information – was a part of the first Gemini spacecraft on-board computer ever to fly on a manned mission.
Image Credit: Heritage Auctions
More specifically, this particular memory component flew on the first two-man American mission, with Gus Grissom and John Young on March 23, 1965.
Interestingly, the core Mercury missions reportedly had little need for an on-board computer as their orbital path was contingent upon the Atlas booster. To be sure, re-entry retrofire times and firing attitudes were calculated on the ground and transmitted to the spacecraft while in flight.
However, according to the Heritage Auction site, the more aggressive goals of the Gemini program, aided by a second astronaut, required an on-board computer to function in six mission phases: prelaunch, ascent backup, insertion, catch-up, rendezvous and re-entry.
The on-board computer – designed and manufactured by IBM’s Federal Systems Division – weighed approximately 59 pounds, performed more than 7,000 calculations a second and took up 1.35 cubic feet aboard the Gemini.
Additional specs? Average power consumption registered at 94.54 watts, along with a 500 kc bit rate, a memory cycle time of 250 kc and an add time of 140 microseconds. Meanwhile, the computer’s memory was a random-access, nondestructive readout design with flexible instruction and data storage organization; a nominal capacity of 4,096 39-bit words and an operational capacity of 12,288 13-bit words.
The RANAM’s official auction page is available here.