It has been a wild ride since May, when I made public the first alpha release of apollo17.org. Now at v0.6, it’s still an alpha, but has been improved and stabilized over the spring and early summer.
The day the site went live, March 25/2015, Gizmodo picked up the site and I got a massive surge of traffic. Technically everything held together, and I was rewarded with many enthusiastic messages from people experiencing the site for the first time. Super rewarding.
On April 1st, as luck would have it, the documentary The Last Man on the Moon was being screened here in Toronto. Of course I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the film, but beyond that, I was thrilled to be able to meet Gene Cernan, the Commander of the Apollo 17 mission, in person. After carefully correcting the transcripts of the mission audio recordings, a process that took many years, it was surreal to meet the commander himself. I had the foresight to write a letter to Gene describing my efforts on apollo17.org and had the opportunity to hand it to him (picture to the left). It was a great honour to meet him–I honestly hadn’t dreamed of ever having the chance to meet him myself. I hope Capt. Cernan gets a chance to check out the site and relive a few moments of the mission that he accomplished so seemingly effortlessly.
It has been a long summer and it’s time to get back to working on the site. I’m hoping within the next few months I can get the first beta completed. For this to happen, I need a design for the site–to wrap it in a bit more context for the layman. I like the idea of it just dumping you into the experience at 1 minute to launch, but I want to try to balance that with a bit of context for the overall mission.
There are still thousands of mission photos that need to be attached to the timeline. This will be another manual effort. I have completed this effort for small sections of the mission. If you would like to see what I’m hoping the final outcome for the whole mission will be, take a look at the segment of the mission where they are deploying the US flag on the surface. I have the photos timed quite exactly for that segment and it’s really interesting to see the media all working together as the astronauts snap photos of each other. http://apollo17.org/?t=
I’m happy to hear that many of the people who gave me feedback described the experience as “addictive”. I have been hoping that this would be the case. The experience of being dropped in to the mission goings-on in real-time should give people the closest simulation of a first-hand experience as is possible. I want to further this with a better visual design for the site itself. I would also like to make better use of the “snap to real-time” button functionality. Right now this button takes the current local time and uses a process to jump the mission to that time. For example, right now on Sept 8, 2015 at 4:30EST, if I click “snap to real-time”, the mission jumps to Fri Dec 08 1972 16:32:13 GMT-0500 (EST), exactly 42 years, 284 days ago. For the anniversary of the mission this December, the number will be exactly 43 years ago for the real-time synced experience.
I also want to build a mode for the site where you can come back throughout the two weeks of the mission anniversary and check in to see what the crew was up to. I’m reminded of Tweets from WWII where tweets throughout the day put you in a near real-time experience of the war. I need to put some thought into how to express the Apollo 17 mission in a similar way.