Journal tags: nasa

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Summer of Apollo

It’s July, 2019. You know what that means? The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is this month.

I’ve already got serious moon fever, and if you’d like to join me, I have some recommendations…

Watch the Apollo 11 documentary in a cinema. The 70mm footage is stunning, the sound design is immersive, the music is superb, and there’s some neat data visualisation too. Watching a preview screening in the Duke of York’s last week was pure joy from start to finish.

Listen to 13 Minutes To The Moon, the terrific ongoing BBC podcast by Kevin Fong. It’s got all my favourite titans of NASA: Michael Collins, Margaret Hamilton, and Charlie Duke, amongst others. And it’s got music by Hans Zimmer.

Experience the website Apollo 11 In Real Time on the biggest monitor you can. It’s absolutely wonderful! From July 16th, you can experience the mission timeshifted by exactly 50 years, but if you don’t want to wait, you can dive in right now. It genuinely feels like being in Mission Control!

Spacelogging

When I was gushing enthusiastically about Old Weather, I tried (and failed) to explain what it is that makes it so damn brilliant. I’ve just experienced some of that same brilliance. This time the source is Spacelog:

Read the stories of early space exploration from the original NASA transcripts. Now open to the public in a searchable, linkable format.

You can now read the transcripts from the Apollo 13 and Mercury 6 missions, and every single utterance has a permalink. For example:

Houston, we’ve had a problem.

The beauty of the idea is matched in the execution. Everything about the visual design helps to turn something that was previously simply information into an immersive, emotional experience. It’s one thing to know that these incredible events took place, it’s another to really feel it.

Spacelog shares the spirit of Science Hack Day. It’s a /dev/fort creation, put together in an incredibly short period of time; Norm! has the low-down.

Apollo 13 and Mercury 6 are just the start. If you want to help turn more transcripts into an emotionally engaging work of hypertext, everything is available under a public domain license and all the code is available on Github. Transcripts are available for Gemini 6, Apollo 8, and Apollo 11.

I can’t wait to read Charlie Duke as hypertext.

To Cape Canaveral… and beyond!

I’ve always been a space geek. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to go to the Kennedy Space Center. There’s a museum there and a bus tour you can go on. The tour stops five miles away from the launch area and while you can’t go into any buildings, the activities within are explained to you.

I fulfilled a fantasy this week. Not only did I go to Cape Canerval but I managed to get an “access all areas” look around the place.

It’s all thanks to an engineer called Benny who listens to Paul Boag’s podcast. In a startling revelation, it turns out that Paul’s listeners are in fact rocket scientists. The NASA “friends and family” day just happened to fall right at the end of Refresh Orlando. Benny invited Paul along. Andy and myself invited ourselves along.

As it turned out, there hadn’t been one of these open days since 2001. We were very, very fortunate and privileged to be allowed behind the scenes at NASA.

In contrast to the regular tour, we drove right up to the launch pads, including launch pad B, which had Discovery rolled out and ready for launch on December 7th. We also got to go inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, something that is normally not allowed. It’s incredibly huge. I mean this is seriously big. Imagine a really big building and then imagine it being bigger.

Best of all, we went inside the orbiter hanger. Endeavour was inside. A space shuttle… a freakin’ space shuttle! That was just so incredibly cool, I can’t even begin to describe it.

I hope I’m not coming across as gloating here: I really just want to share my excitement. It was quite an experience to get so close to the ultimate geek toys. The only way it could have been any better was if Jessica could have been there. Soulmate that she is, I think she might be an even bigger space geek than me.

Clearly, my descriptive powers aren’t up to the task of cataloguing the day’s sights, so I’ll just point you to this photoset on Flickr.

Holy freakin' crap!

Thanks, Benny!