Apollo 11 lunar landing told through data

Posted to Statistical Visualization  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

From Yanni Loukissas of the MIT Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society, comes the story of the Apollo 11 lunar landing told via multiple time series running in parallel and the back and forth between astronauts and mission control.

The Apollo 11 visualization draws together social and technical data from the 1969 moon landing in a dynamic 2D graphic. The horizontal axis is an interactive timeline. The vertical axis is divided into several sections, each corresponding to a data source. At the top, commentators are present in narratives from Digital Apollo and NASA technical debriefings. Just below are the members of ground control. The middle section is a log-scale graph stretching from Earth (~10E9 ft. away) to the Moon. Utterances from the landing CAPCOM, Duke, the command module pilot, Collins, the mission commander, Armstrong, and the lunar module pilot, Aldrin, are plotted on this graph.

Climax hits around the 4-minute mark. Too bad it doesn't get to the one small step for man part.


  • I found the first 1.5 minutes to be very confusing. There was no sound, the presentation zoomed by too quickly, and the audio transcripts were mostly unreadable. And then they rewound the progress, before proceeding again at a normal rate. I suppose this might have made sense to the students & faculty who made this, but not to new viewers.

    But after that part, this presentation got real interesting.

  • Yeah I’m with Stefan. I had no idea WTF was going on at first.

  • Eric Dahlstrom January 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I agree it was very interesting when it got to the part being replayed in real time.
    I would have like to listen to them deal with the memory overflow computer errors during descent.
    It would also have been interesting to follow for another minute – the plugged vent valve had some of the back room guys screaming to ‘get them off the Moon’ before the descent stage exploded. Luckily, the frozen plug broke free and it was years before that story came out.
    [Ref: Stoff, J. & Pellegrino, C.R., Chariots for Apollo: The Untold Story Behind the Race to the Moon]


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