The augmented reality app that lets you experience the moon landing The new app allows users to walk on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. (Smithsonian Channel/NASA on The Commons)
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 
environment.

"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-
Harmony.

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 
Museum.

"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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What do you think would be the most exciting thing about going to the moon? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


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