Capcom: We’ve got serious time pressure here, Jim. You’ve gotta get the guidance program transferred, you gotta do it before you’re out of power in the command module. Or you are not gonna be able to navigate up there.
Captain Jim Lovell: How much time? Can you give me a number?
Capcom: Well, we’re looking at less than 15 minutes of life support…
It’s one of the tensest moments in Ron Howard’s already unrelentingly tense 1995 film Apollo 13. Captain Jim Lovell, played by a dogged Tom Hanks, is told by mission control that in order to get home from their catastrophic attempt to land on the moon, he and his crew will have to rescue the spacecraft’s navigation program. The set of data they need is trapped on the dying command module they’re about to abandon and they have a matter of minutes to transfer it manually to the computer aboard the lunar landing craft, and pray for it to boot up.
He’d seen the movie before, but watching the action play out again at home one evening in 2003, software designer Ron Burkey was suddenly inspired.