At 23 years old, Mike Lowry sat in front of his black and white television, his eyes glued to the pixels in front of him. Lowry watched the grainy broadcast as Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of Apollo 11 onto the rocky lunar surface.
"It's a very distinct experience that has stuck in my head for years," Lowry recalled. "I remember the Kennedy assassination and Sept. 11 clearly. This was also a major lifetime event."
As technology and science has become more accessible, local companies can trace much of that improvement back to NASA and its Apollo 11 mission.
Lowry explained that at the time, the entire country's credit card database was held in an entire room, yet only it only held two gigabytes of memory. Fifty years later, the latest iPhone has up to 512 gigabytes of storage — more than half a terabyte.
Until the late 1980s, Alpharetta was known as an agricultural town. Now the city is widely know as the "Technology City of the South." As of Dec. 2018, Alpharetta is home to around 700 different technology based companies, ranging from smaller start up companies to Microsoft.
Motoi Namihira, the founder of Espy Data Science in Alpharetta says that the moon landing has accelerated the process of computing sciences. During the Space Race, nearly all calculations were done by hand. IBM accelerated the process by developing its IBM 709, a device that could calculate around 2.4 million decisions per minute.
Namihira explained that his company examines and analyzes customer data using a mixture of statistics, information technology, math and computer programming.
"That interplay between math and computational hardware to run is really the precursor to what we do today in data analytics, the entire space of artificial intelligence, data science is really in some sense just a child of the NASA program," Namihira said.
Another Alpharetta local Robert Martin has directly seen NASA's impact on technology, as he designed a product that ended up on the moon.
"NASA said, 'Hey can you make these prisms larger?' and I said sure, what size do you want?'" Martin recalled.
"It's a glass, where you take lasers and measure the distance from JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) to the moon, the moon as it flows from the earth so we are able to model how fast that happens," Martin said.
Martin is the managing director of MSI Positioning Systems, which analyzes, captures, stores and addresses geospatial data. He is also a Federal Aviation Association certified remote pilot.
"(The moon landing) made technology, particularly space related technology, reachable and practical," Lowry said. "The whole project was an amazing collaboration of multiple technologies."
Now living in Roswell, Lowry says at the time of the Apollo missions, he was just beginning his career in data science. He now works with the company BrainDx, a software that helps mental health practitioners understand and diagnose patients. The software uses Quantitative electroencephalography (QEEGs) as a way to map brain activity and diagnose patients and track therapies.
"The moon landing was a very inspirational thing," Lowry said. "It underscored the value of having a coherent visions and the will to execute, which is what the country is lacking today."
Not only did the Apollo 11 mission accelerate technological advances, but it also paved way for younger innovators to pursue science careers.
"I think it's inspired a new generation of innovators," CEO and founder of Drones iVue, Jacob Andrews said.
On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, north Fulton and its surrounding areas are seeing technologies never thought possible. However, thanks to feats such as the Apollo 11 mission, man has been able to make even bigger leaps.