The Story of Man’s Greatest Adventure Brought to live with Augmented Reality
It’s hard to believe, but it’s 50 years this Christmas since Apollo 8 took the first humans round the Moon, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first men to see the far side of the Moon with their own eyes, the iconic “Earthrise” photograph was taken, and the “In the beginning…” passages of Genesis were read out by the astronauts in a Christmas Eve TV broadcast, a quarter of a million miles from Earth. This moment lies half way in time now between us and the end of World War One, a thought to make us all pause.
The story of the Apollo Moon flights of 1968-1972 have been told in a huge number of books and biographies in the intervening half century, and I could write a whole separate post reviewing them. This book, set out specifically for the 50th anniversary of the missions, tells the story through two innovative approaches – one, a scrapbook feel is created by reproducing loads of original sources and ‘ephemera’ from the NASA Archives interleaved round the main text, this means we have a direct window into history – it helps the book ‘live’ for us, with many original memos from Werhner Von Braun and other NASA bigwigs, early engineering sketches, data sheets, lunar EVA timelines, the Apollo 13 flight director’s log, handwritten as the crisis unfolded, none of which I had seen before, and as you may have gathered, I’m a bit of a nerd. The overall feel therefore is that the missions have just been flown– no dry-as-dust chronicle, this – it feels like it was written and put together while the history was actually being made.
The other innovation is the book is accompanied by an App – downloadable for Android or Apple, which means at certain sections of the book you can hold your phone or tablet over the page, the App will recognize it and bring up audio, or video film in place of the still images, or high-resolution documents, or full rendered 3D models of the spacecraft such as the Lunar Module or the Saturn V booster, that you can explore in detail by rotating your device. These work far better as you would expect on a larger tablet screen than a phone, and the app is quite large (281Mb for Android). Initially this felt a bit ‘gimmicky’ for me, and didn’t always add to the text in my view, but there is something pretty cool when a 3D rocket appears out of the pages of a book!
The text itself is detailed, well-written, engaging and broadly follows the chronology of the flights up to Apollo 17 in 1972, with brief closing chapters to bring up to speed with the post-Apollo space programmes of all nations. The many photographs are well selected and tend to focus on the hardware and the astronauts, but there are plenty of scenic lunar landscapes too. This is a good present to give to any space enthusiast, new or old.
Andre Deutsch, hardback, 176pp.