55-Year Mystery Revealed: Error in Lunar Lander Game Code Uncovered

Retired software engineer Martin K. Martin recently uncovered an error in the code of the legendary computer game “Lunar Lander,” created back in 1969, where players must land a lunar module on the Moon’s surface. The discovery came while studying the optimal landing strategy to maximize fuel efficiency.

The first version of “Lunar Lander” was created by 17-year-old high school student Jim Storer on a PDP-8 minicomputer using the FOCAL programming language. The game displayed only status updates about the lunar module’s position during its descent to the lunar surface. Gamers had to carefully manage fuel consumption to ensure a soft landing, making critical decisions every 10 seconds about the amount of fuel to burn.

This primitive game paved the way for future versions. In 1974, a graphical version was introduced, followed by an arcade game from Atari in 1979, which brought “Lunar Lander” widespread fame. By the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2009, an enthusiast had located the original game’s creator, Jim Storer, conducted an interview, and compiled the history of “Lunar Lander.” Storer later published the game’s source code on his website.

In 2024, AI expert and former MIT researcher Martin K. Martin conducted an analysis of the code and identified an error in the implementation of the physical calculations. The bug occurred when attempting the most fuel-efficient landing using the “suicide burn” technique, known among fans of the game Kerbal Space Program. This strategy involves free-falling to build up speed and then firing the engines at the very last moment for a safe deceleration.

“Recently, I was exploring the optimal fuel burn regime for a maximally soft landing with high residual thrust,” Martin wrote in his blog. “Unexpectedly, the theoretically best strategy didn’t work. The game mistakenly believed the module didn’t touch the surface, though it actually did. Delving deeper, I was struck by the complexity of the physical calculations and numerical computations in the game. Ultimately, I found the error: the absence of a division by two operation, which apparently went unnoticed for almost 55 years.”

The Division Issue Despite employing what seemed like the perfect landing strategy, the game inconsistently reported that the module completely missed the lunar surface. Intrigued by this anomaly, Martin examined the source code and discovered that the landing algorithm was based on advanced physics for its time, including Tsiolkovsky’s rocket motion equation and Taylor series.

As mentioned in the quote above, the root of the problem lay in a mundane computational oversight – the lack of a division by two in the formula calculating the lunar module’s trajectory. This seemingly minor oversight had significant consequences, leading to incorrect calculations of landing time and position. Despite the error, Martin was impressed that Storer, as a high school student, incorporated advanced mathematical concepts into his game, which remains a notable achievement today.

Upon contacting Storer himself, Martin learned that the creator of “Lunar Lander’s” father was a physicist who assisted his son in deriving equations for the game simulation.

While players enjoyed Storer’s game with its bug for many years, it underscores that realism isn’t always the most crucial aspect of an engaging interactive experience. Fortunately for Aldrin and Armstrong, the real Apollo lunar expedition did not suffer from such an error.

  • Say

    Related Posts

    Yasuke Wasn’t a Samurai: Japanese Historians Clash Over His Status
    • SaySay
    • July 22, 2024

    Unknowingly, Ubisoft opened a Pandora’s box. Japanese historians are in heated debate over Yasuke: was the Black man truly a samurai? Opinions are sharply divided. Game developer Mark Kern has…

    Continue reading
    Mortal Kombat: Onslaught Shutting Down — Game to Be Permanently Removed from Stores
    • SaySay
    • July 22, 2024

    It appears that the news about NetherRealm’s mobile division closure was true. Today, it was announced that Mortal Kombat: Onslaught will cease operations just a year after its launch. The…

    Continue reading

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You Missed

    YouTube Relic: Video of Herobrine’s First Appearance in Minecraft Found

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 4 views
    YouTube Relic: Video of Herobrine’s First Appearance in Minecraft Found

    Samsung Patents Accordion-Style Tablet with Expandable Screen

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 4 views
    Samsung Patents Accordion-Style Tablet with Expandable Screen

    The End: Showrunners of The Witcher Series Conclude Plot for Fifth Season

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 4 views
    The End: Showrunners of The Witcher Series Conclude Plot for Fifth Season

    Samsung Reveals “Contraindications” for Galaxy Ring Smart Ring

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 3 views
    Samsung Reveals “Contraindications” for Galaxy Ring Smart Ring

    Yasuke Wasn’t a Samurai: Japanese Historians Clash Over His Status

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 6 views
    Yasuke Wasn’t a Samurai: Japanese Historians Clash Over His Status

    Leak: HUAWEI to Soon Unveil Affordable Foldable Smartphone

    • By Say
    • July 22, 2024
    • 4 views
    Leak: HUAWEI to Soon Unveil Affordable Foldable Smartphone