Every Conversation That Happened During the First Moon Landing, Visualized
NASA’s transcripts from space missions can be incredibly colorful. During the Apollo 10 mission, a piece of poop that floated through the capsule sparked an argument over who did the doo (the answer is still unclear). During Gemini 3, pilot John Young revealed to his crew that he had smuggled a corned beef sandwich from Earth (“Smells, doesn’t it?” he remarked).
A new data visualization provides an interactive timeline for the transcripts from the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned trip to the moon and the origin of famous moments like “One small step for man …” Lunar Conversations, created by Chicago-based artist Nicholas Rougeux (who has previously visualized classic literature by its punctuation and turned sentences in famous novels into constellations), documents every transmission that was recorded during the mission, highlighting important moments and letting you see when the astronauts were most chatty.
The graphic visualizes each conversation as a bubble, with bigger bubbles corresponding to more verbose transmissions. The gray bubbles are the transmissions to Earth from space, and the blue bubbles represent things that NASA controllers on the ground said to the astronauts. When you hover on the bubble, you can see the transcript of what was said.
Rougeux writes on his blog that while most of the chatter was very technical, conversations “were very casual, including talk of munching on sandwiches, transmitting the daily news, and laughing about jokes.” The astronauts described what they saw around them, like “a rather remarkable cloud that appears in the vicinity of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan” and the powdery surface of the moon. Mission Control gave the astronauts updates on what was going on on the ground, including the results of the Miss Universe pageant and a House of Representatives vote on a tax bill. It also includes the phone call that the astronauts had with Richard Nixon after they had landed on the moon.
Reading through the transmissions is a good reminder of the humanity of now-legendary astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (really, who among us has not been late to answer a call because of “munching sandwiches”?) as well as just how much communication goes on between the astronauts and NASA’s team on the ground. The astronauts were in near-constant communication with Mission Control, and there are only rare gaps in the transcript. The astronauts were rigorously scheduled, with even their meals timed out. As a result, it can be difficult to single out specific transmissions, purely because there are so many of them.
You can explore for yourself—and buy it as a poster—here.
[h/t Flowing Data]