A Mission to the Moon Recreated Online

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At 9:32 a.m. this morning, The JFK Memorial Library and the Martin Agency launched a site commemorating the first lunar landing, exactly 40 years to the minute after the Apollo 11 blast off. And for the next four days, until the shuttle lands on Monday afternoon, the site will host a complete recreation of the historic event in real time.

Compiling NASA's archival audio transmissions and transcript of communications between the Kennedy Space Center and the shuttle, as well as 400 photographs and 44 video clips, WeChooseTheMoon.org tracks Apollo 11's journey in homage to President Kennedy's advocacy of a mission to the moon--the site is named after his "We Choose to go to the Moon" speech--in a project for his presidential library and museum.

At 11 intervals throughout the mission, from take-off to landing, 3D-animated clips illustrate the shuttle's trajectory to the moon and, at each stage, a new set of supporting videos and photos are released. Visitors to the site, powered by AOL, can follow the shuttle's course while listening to the more than 100 hours of the original audio transmission between the astronauts and control team in Houston. From the 650-page transcript, the Martin Agency also selected snippets to release via Twitter.

Production company Domani Studios created the site, which includes a Flash overlay of a countdown clock, supplemental material and data feeds.

"Creating a deeply immersive experience that leverages audio and full-frame video in a truly real-time environment had its challenges," says Jonathan Hills, Domani executive creative director and founding partner. "Generally speaking, you don't see real-time sites with such a reliance on large media files. Without the massive full-frame video files and the audio feed we would have lost the whole experience. Balancing those elements with the demands of a real-time experience was a challenge that i think we overcame pretty well."

To release the written transmissions in real time to the second, Domani built an application that feeds time-stamped transcript excerpts from a spreadsheet to Twitter. The transmissions are released through three handles: @AP11_Spacecraft for Apollo 11 to Houston communication, @AP11_Capcom for Houston to Apollo 11 and @AP11_Eagle for Eagle to Houston and Columbia, after the landing pod separates from the main craft.

Martin creative director Joe Alexander says that campaigns for the JFK Library, a longtime client of the agency, have traditionally only been print work.

"But when we started looking at the whole legacy of JFK and the moon, we kept coming back to the idea that this is a phenomenal achievement but there's no place where it's all together, where you can see all the materials, listen to all the interviews and see all the footage," he says. "We wanted to reintroduce the entire achievement using current technology."

"We just wanted to bring all those things together and help the public experience this viscerally instead of just reading about it," art director Brian Williams adds. "Let's recreate the experience live so people can feel how long it took. The goal was to put all of this material in one place into something that feels like an experience as opposed to a file drawer."

After the virtual shuttle lands on July 20, the site will transition into an educational tool, where visitors can conduct a self-guided tour of the mission. It will also be used as an exhibit at the library museum.

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