The augmented reality app that lets you experience the moon landing
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Americans crowded around grainy televisions. The year was 1969. They saw Neil
Armstrong. They saw Buzz Aldrin. They were astronauts. They touched ground on
the moon. That moment was amazing for all who watched it.
The Smithsonian Channel launched "Apollo's Moon Shot." It is an augmented reality
app. They think it can bring new audiences closer to the experience of the landing
than the original footage ever could.
The AR app is on Apple devices. It is on Android devices. It places users on the
surface of the moon. It lets them virtually escape their own surroundings. Users can
moonwalk like Aldrin and Armstrong. They will see craters. The craters dot the
landscape. They can jump up and down. They are in a state of altered gravity. They
can gaze out at the darkening sky. The app also includes information. It is about the
landing. It is part of its design.
"It makes the landing more interactive. It allows people to bring the Apollo program
into their own experience." says Teasel Muir-Harmony. She is a curator. She works
at the National Air and Space Museum.
The app's developers used 3-D scans. They scanned Neil Armstrong's space suit.
They scanned the Lunar Command Module. It placed the astronauts on the moon.
They did this to copy the feeling of the landing. And to copy the scale of the landing.
Users can do more than walk on the moon. The app allows users to mimic the
mission takeoff. It charts Apollo's path. It moves through the moon's airspace. It
includes two games.
One game is called "The Moon Shot Challenge." The other game is called "Lunar
Landing Challenge." The games test users' ability. Players guide a safe landing. They
move through a lunar terrain. It is dotted with boulders. It is dotted with craters.
The Smithsonian Channel launched the app in June. It goes along with a six-part
series. That series is "Apollo's Moon Shot." The series has Muir-Harmony. She is an
expert. She narrates the story. The story is the Apollo 11 landing. She tells the story
with artifacts. They are in the Smithsonian collection. The series also shows rare
archival footage. It also uses audiotapes.
Muir Harmony consulted on the television series. She also consulted on the app. The
goal was to highlight a new side of the moon landing. It shows a side that much of
the public hasn't encountered.
"We often focus on the astronauts. But over 400,000 people worked on the
program," she says.
Teams of NASA scientists worked under tight deadlines. They needed to map out
ways to make day-to-day life work in space. A group of engineers cobbled together
personal items. One such item was a zero-gravity sleeping bag. It was for the
astronauts. They developed exercise equipment. It was later dubbed the Exergenie.
It was a "rope friction device." It let astronauts work out even in a weightless
"One of the things that people don't always realize is how many details were
involved in a program like that. How many new technologies had to be developed.
And how many people had to work together to make it all possible," said Muir-
The point of the app is to show these forgotten shades of the Apollo landing. They
want to bring them to people who may have a hard time visiting the Air and Space
"The series and the app do a wonderful job of exposing people to the complexities of
that program," said Muir-Harmony.
"It's exciting for us to be able use augmented reality to give people more access to
the artifacts in our national collections.