Posts Tagged ‘post’

Understanding Infographics (Chrys Wu)

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

[Editor's note: Chrys Wu takes care of Web 2.0 type aggregation and promotion at The Washington Post. She has a blog and recent posts have focused on Infographics. I highlight several below. Nutgraph: Don’t think about one platform first. Think about all platforms available simultaneously. Also: "Infographics is not art, it is a conveyance of information."]

Understanding Infographics, First Pass

As promised in a previous post on learning information graphics (sometimes shortened to “infographics”), I’m posting my raw notes from Day 1 of an information graphics workshop taught last month by Alberto Cairo and Xaquin G.V., two leading practitioners.

Alberto Cairo teaches an infographics seminar by Medialab Prado on FlickrAbove, Alberto Cairo teaches a data visualization seminar at Medialab-Prado in Madrid in 2007.

Read full notes from class . . .

Some of Chrys’ favorite information graphics and visualization blogs:

Alberto Cairo Has a Monster Reading List

Day One of the Beyond Bootcamp information graphics workshop taught by Alberto Cairo and Xaquin G.V. has been much less scary than I’d first thought.

Cairo’s lecture has been a model of organized thought and progressive structure, which should come as no surprise to anyone, given the nature of his work.

What’s also obvious is that the man reads a heck of a lot. For every concept and example, he’s tossed off a different book title.

Here’s what he’s recommended to us so far, in no particular order:

Wayfinding: Here, Even Icons Need IDs (Wash Post)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

[Editor's note: Maps are most useful when held in the hand and referenced while in a landscape. But sometimes it is hard to match the abstract map topology with what is literally just in front of us. Or maybe the map was left at home. Maps are best when combined with confirmatory signage (direct annotation) in the landscape itself. These signs should have prominent, frequent placement and be easy to read. Signage that is small and/or discrete is pointless.

This article from the Washington Post explores the National Park Service's proposal for better signage along the National Mall in the District, swarmed all year long with tourists who have no clue where they are or what they're looking at.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

Monday, March 16, 2009; Page B01
Also see John Kelly’s blog post on signage in the Metro rail subways.

Park Service Wants Tourist-Friendly Signs for Mall Monuments

The two Belgian tourists paused on the pathway near the Washington Monument to answer a question.

Could they identify the towering white obelisk before them?

They examined their map. “We think, the Ellipse,” said Dien Haemhouts, 24, of Antwerp. Told their mistake, they laughed. “Ah, the Washington Monument,” Haemhouts said. “Okay.”

It was understandable. They had never been to Washington before. There was no sign nearby identifying the monument. And so the two tourists found themselves in the midst of a fresh debate: Do icons like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial need signs announcing what they are?

The National Park Service, which is about to install an extensive new system of signs on the Mall, says yes. Many foreign and American tourists have no clue what they’re looking at or what to expect when they arrive, the Park Service says. Officials say, for example, that they often get calls from the public asking if there is a Nordstrom on the Mall.

But some members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which must approve the new sign system, as well as American tourists interviewed on a cold day last week, say no to such signs. “Just looking at it,” Minnie Glenn, 50, of Park Hall, Md., said of the monument. “It’s self-defining.”

The debate arises as the Mall is about to get a new $2.2 million sign system, funded by the federal government and the private Trust for the National Mall. Design research is underway, with a view to replacing the mishmash of signs on the Mall with a more uniform and user-friendly system that will probably use a series of color-coded pylons.

“There are hundreds of mismatched signs on the Mall,” Wayne Hunt, whose firm is researching the new system, told the arts commission last month at a meeting where proposed signs were reviewed. “The Lincoln Memorial has 44 mismatched signs.”

Across the Mall, there are signs with directions, signs with warnings, signs with rules. “Please Stay on the Sidewalks,” reads one at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “Quiet” is called for at the Lincoln Memorial. “No Guns or Ammunition,” says one near the Washington Monument.

When the question of formal signs came up, several commission members said signs seemed unnecessary and would be a blot on the landscape. “What does it say in front of the pyramids?” Pamela Nelson, vice chairman, wondered of Egypt’s famous tombs. “Is there a sign in front of the pyramids?”

Commission member Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk asked: “Do you need a sign in front of the Washington Monument? I don’t think so.”

In a letter to the Park Service, commission Secretary Thomas E. Luebke wrote that the commission “strongly discouraged the use of the monument-type sign to identify buildings and memorials on the National Mall.”

Continue reading at Washington Post . . .

SND New York City Meetup Presentations

Monday, March 9th, 2009

[Editor's note: I was up in New York city Saturday for a regional Society of News Designers meetup. The same presentations are now live on the SND website, which I've clipped below. Enjoy.]

Republished from Society of News Designers.
By Jon Wile — March 4, 2009

We were in New York City on Saturday for a free regional meetup. More than 100 people joined us in person and many more checked in online. The all-star lineup of speakers included graphics legend Nigel Holmes, Rolling Stone art director Joe Hutchinson, former Fortune graphics editor Sarah Slobin, and New York Times interactive graphics gurus Matthew Ericson and Shan Carter. We have presentations to share and we will put up the captured video footage next week if you did not see it live. Check it out.

Rolling Stone art director Joe Hutchinson speaks on Saturday at the meetup in New York. <a href=

Rolling Stone art director Joe Hutchinson speaks on Saturday at the meetup in New York. Photo by William Couch

PRESENTATIONS

Download Sarah Slobin’s (PDF: 29.5MB) presentation here.

Watch Joe Hutchinson’s presentation here.

Download the presentation (PDF: 26.6MB) from Matthew Ericson and Shan Carter here.

PHOTOS

ABOUT THESE MEETUPS

We had our first meetup in December in Washington: At that event, more than 60 visual journalists showed up to talk about our craft and get to know each other over drinks at The Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a classic Capitol Hill watering hole. It was a lot of fun.

Have an idea for a meetup in your town? Drop me an email and I can help you set it up.

Housing Market State by State (Wash Post)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

[Editor's note: This graphic mixes a free-form Dorling cartogram with a bar chart. Both examine the same nominal geographic data but the bar chart shows "underwater" mortgages as a percent of all mortgages while the cartogram shows the same by total per state. Since most US state choropleth maps are simply visual lists, this graphic dispenses with the map entirely and examines the thematic data through two lenses to show two different results.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
March 5, 2009.
Graphic by Todd Lindeman and Laura Stanton.
Related story >>

At least one in five U.S. mortgage holders – or about 8.3 million households – owed more on their mortgages by the end of 2008 than their homes were worth, sometimes called “underwater.”

SOURCE: First American CoreLogic | The Washington Post – March 5, 2009

U.S. Launches Wide-Ranging Plan to Steady Housing Market
$75 Billion Plan Would Help Borrowers Avoid Foreclosure

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 5, 2009; Page A01

The Obama administration yesterday sketched in the details of its most ambitious attempt to reduce foreclosures and stabilize the beleaguered housing market at the root of the economic meltdown.

The program has two key elements: a refinancing program for borrowers with little equity in their homes but current on their loans, and a $75 billion program to help reduce mortgage payments for struggling borrowers.

Several large lenders praised the program, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. There were also converts among those outside the industry. “I was skeptical at first, but I think these guidelines are helpful in a lot of ways,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit group that has been critical of industry efforts to modify mortgages.

Homeowners with loans as large as $729,750 could see their interest rates temporarily cut to as low as 2 percent under the program. The administration also said it will add new incentives to persuade lenders that hold second mortgages to give up their claims, further lowering homeowners’ debt obligations. While the Obama administration initially said it would focus on owner-occupied properties, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they would refinance loans for some second homes and investment properties, too.

That the programs would apply to mortgages worth up to $729,750 throughout the country and not just in high-priced regions surprised some industry officials who praised the move. “It will allow us to help more borrowers, especially those who have been hit hardest by the current crisis,” said John A. Courson, chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Giving Google Maps a Heck of a View (Wash Post)

Monday, February 9th, 2009

[Editor's note: If you live in or visit Washington, DC, check out this exhibit in Arlington featuring Google's Streetview public art on Pittsburgh's Sampsonia Way. See related blog post.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

The morning last May when a Google Maps car — with a roof-mounted camera — came to record street-view images of Pittsburgh’s Sampsonia Way, artists Ben Kinsley and Robin Hewlett were waiting.

They and more than a hundred community members had lined the one-way alley with a staged street parade (with marching band!), a mini-marathon and a dozen other bizarre scenarios.

Video of the resulting public art project, “Street With a View,” and a Web terminal to check out the project are now on view as part of the Arlington Arts Center’s new “Public/Private” exhibit. And the truth about it is, the little Google Maps “intervention” was a six-month undertaking — that required assistance from Google.

“They had already shot that street. Pittsburgh was already done,” Kinsley tells us by phone from Iceland, where he now works. “In the end, they were willing to reshoot the area just for us. There wasn’t any guarantee that what they shot would go live.” But it did: Just Google “Sampsonia Way Pittsburgh,” and there they are (though you’ll have to scroll around to find all of the scenes).

When it launched the street-view scenes in November, Google even offered hints that a surprise was waiting, says Elaine Filadelfo, spokeswoman for Google Maps. In tech-speak, it’s an “Easter egg.” (For the record, Google gave no money to the artists; the street-view team just liked their idea.)

Kinsley says he and Hewlett (both Carnegie Mellon grads) hit upon the idea after seeing street views.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What if we knew this car was coming down the street, what would we do? What could we do?’ ”

Free. “Street With a View” and the rest of “Public/Private” are up Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. through April 4. Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd. 703-248-6800. For more about the project visit http://www.streetwithaview.com.

GRAPHIC: Despite Boost, Bank Value Dwindle (Wash Post)

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

[Editor's note: This graphic in yesterday's Washington Post business section was all the buzz in Washington as Congress passed its latest bail out bill. Outstanding graphic by staff artist Todd Lindaman.]

Republished from The Washington Post. January 28, 2009.
Related A1 article by David Cho: Treasury Weighs Hard Choices To Save Banks.

Investors have fled from the world’s largest banks. Tumbling stock prices have dropped the likes of Citigroup and HSBC from lists of the world’s most valuable companies, as measured by market value. The depreciated prices leave banks more vulnerable because it doesn’t take as much money to buy a majority stake. That has forced a debate about whether governments trying to help banks should simply nationalize them.

View larger image.

SOURCE: Bloomberg, photo by Associated Press | Reporting By Binyamin Appelbaum – The Washington Post – January 28, 2009.

Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 2 (Kelso)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy :)

Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.

This is part 2. Return to Part 1. View zoomable map at National Geographic.

Orbitor 5 Recap

Orbiters 1 through 4 had covered much of the Far Side (shown in green) but much was still missing. Orbiter 5 devoted time to photographing the rest of the unknown part of the Far Side, and as a result, nearly all of the remaining area was taken. After the mission’s success, NASA announced it had all the photos that would cover the Moon. I called NASA to see if their Far Side map was finished, since we would use it for our relief artist so he could render the relief map.

1967: NASA’S Moon Map

But, in fact, NASA had produced only a partial map of the Far Side and had no intention to finish a complete map of the Moon before our scheduled publication. What’s more, I was told that the one partial map they HAD prepared was put together very quickly and they could guarantee that the positional control of features was poor.

(Above) This is the 1976 edition of the map of that 1967 map which was probably greatly improved. It covered from 50 degrees south to 50 degrees north only. Eventually they would finish the polar maps to complete it but that didn’t happen until 1970, more than a year after we published the Moon map. This meant we would have to create our own positional control (selenodetic control) of the Moon’s Far Side features.

Selenodetic Control

Dave is adjusting the globe, I’m moving the camera box and Vic is moving the light.

So we had to come up with another answer. Actually, it was natural for me to think of a scheme to solve the selenodetic control problem. I had learned and done technical perspective drafting for my architect father and I knew picture planes, station points, vanishing points, 2 and 3-point perspective, etc. inside out. As many know, rectification of photos is an exercise in perspective. Unfortunately, I had little time to do the control and we had no rectification equipment. The photos had to be quickly prepared for Tibor to use as he was rapidly finishing his relief of the Near Side.

We needed a large globe in order to reproduce the Orbiter / Moon configurations. It needed a latitude longitude grid preferably without other obscuring information. Well, there just happened to be a one-meter globe in old Hubbard Hall. On the globe, drawn in black ink by hand, was a 5° grid and the shorelines of the earth. With that in hand, we needed a platform to mount it and a slidable camera. Dave and I came in hammers and saws and literally built this contraption, sometimes making up the design as we went

The globe was mounted on a pair of rolling pins. A plumb bob hung from overhead that pointed to a center line drawn the length of a platform and which aligned with the globe’s center. A camera was mounted on a box so its focal point was half a meter above the platform and directly over a  camera swivel. It could then be pointed in different directions while keeping its position directly above the platform’s center line. The platform was long enough in scale so all pictures would be within the range of all the Orbiter photos.

The setup made it possible to roll the globe into any position. We had a hinged measuring stick in front of the globe, with a half meter tick mark so we could align three key points, 1) a designated latitude longitude point (nadir point), 2) the center of the globe and 3) the camera focal point.

Precision

Dave Cook uses proportional dividers to mark the correct latitude and longitude for the camera’s Nadir point. The point is then set on the plumb bob string.

To take a picture of the globe, we followed these steps:

  1. Place the latitude longitude nadir point at the half meter point (by measuring stick) and in line with the tangential plumb bob.
  2. Move the camera to the scaled distance from the plumb bob (putting it directly “above” the nadir point)
  3. Mark the latitude longitude aiming point on the globe (we use a dark X on a piece of masking tape)
  4. Swivel the camera to aim at the Orbiter’s aiming point

The camera recorded a large film plate for accuracy (8 x 6 inches I think) and so the aiming point was clearly visible in the back of the camera. Vic Boswell did a miraculous job of lighting so that the negatives would show the grid lines all the way around the globe. He took about 5 or 6 exposures to ensure a decent one. Vic and I yakked constantly about “foreign cars” back in the day when they were still exotic. He had restored a 1948 MG TC which he drove around on sunny days.

Tibor’s Relief


Tibor is shown working on Tsiolkovsky crater on the Far Side hemisphere.

True rectification means taking distorted photos and removing the distortion. In our case, I would take the photographed grid, draft it onto the Orbiter photo and give it Tibor. He had to rectify the 5° gridded portion of photo in is head by visually subdividing the distorted photo square and mentally transferring the terrain onto a corresponding Lambert Azimuthal square.

Some photos were quite relatively perfect but many were severely foreshortened. While we took these pictures, Tibor was busy drawing the relief for the Near Side of the Moon. I needed to start giving him source material so it would be ready when he started work on the Far Side. Tibor drafted on some sort of paper. Other plates for the map were produced on cronoflex.

Selenodetic Control II

Same photo with Tsiolkovsky crater and holding the clear gridded overlay.

After getting the developed negatives, I had to calculate the correct size for the overlay positive, a more difficult task than I expected. The Orbiter photos were pieced together in strips, often slightly off register. Trying to size by the arc radius could be a tricky affair, but that and a couple of known coordinates made it relatively straightforward.

In the photo below, the moon’s limb is in the particular Orbiter frame and could serve as a way of sizing the corresponding picture of our globe. Yet, with the strips slightly off, it was never that easy. Frames showing no edge of the moon meant aligning by known coordinate points was the only way. I had to order each negative in several different sizes and would inevitably find the one that lined up with two or more known coordinate points on the photo. And when known points were only those by extension across the far side, it meant errors could start to add up.

With the correct, registered positive in hand, I pierced through the overlay at grid intersections into the Orbiter photo. (Notice the spots on the overlay. There was a lightly inked shoreline drawn on the one-meter globe and it appeared on all photos along with the grid.)

Transfered Grid

I used “ships curves” to connect the points. The gut- killer was that there was nothing I could use to check my work. I had to work across the entire Far Side hoping everything would meet up correctly. Fortunately it did.

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Faces in the Crowd (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

[Editor's note: This in an interactive version of an annotated photo in the print edition. I did a little programming, Christina, Karen, and Patterson did the heavy lifting. The version below shows all the faces but the user starts off with the original image to explore.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009.

Roll over the photo to see who was at the Capitol when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States:

Screenshot below. View original interactive.

By Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Cristina Rivero, Patterson Clark and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post.

Meet Richard Furno (Kelso)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

My friend and cartography colleague Richard Furno retired from The Washington Post as of January 1st, 2009. He had a long and productive career first at National Geographic Maps starting in 1963 and then for 30 years at the newspaper making daily, deadline driven maps for publication in the next day’s newspaper from 1978 to 2008. For many of those years, he was the newspaper’s Chief Cartographer and influenced a generation of cartographers. He was a victim of a changing media landscape and dreary economic times.

Richard has been a great mentor to me, encouraging me in my map making, strengthening my graphic design and visual story telling, and given me the courage to take up software programming. His love of maps brought out the best in those he worked with and has driven us to want to excel. He was the last (map) projectionist at National Geographic Maps and his insights about that science are one of a kind.

We are officially honoring Richard this week in the NewsArt department. The image above is a “roast” page that is a typical gift for departing colleagues with jokes and jabs mixed in with general vignettes (the page should be taken with a grain of salt). View larger. Download PDF.

 

Recommendation by Michael Keegan
Former AME (Associate Managing Editor)
NewsArt Department
The Washington Post

Dick Furno by any other name would be… what? Map Man? Longitude Dude? The Prime Meridian? When you think of Dick Furno, you think maps. He is the man — the Map Man.

We all have someone we instinctively go to for answers about a particular subject. When it is a question of mapping or geography, I go to Dick Furno. No one else. Dick is my Map Man. Over the years I have know him, Dick has patiently explained to me many particulars of making and reading maps — about the best way of creating them and why one map projection may be better than another. But I think the most important lesson that he has taught me is the appreciation of maps themselves, and for the power and importance they hold.

This was especially true at The Washington Post were we worked together for nearly 24 years. The significance of maps to the Post’s reporting cannot be overemphasized. They located murder scenes and closed roads, school openings, fires and protest marches in the streets. They recorded armies moving across boarders, ships sinking, and political victories as well as the best locations for ice cream in the heat of summer.

Washington Post maps were rich with information and they packed that information in a small amount of space. Maps clarified stories, they made precise reference to location when the copy could not. And in the end, maps simply helped educate readers about the physical world they lived in, and that, in itself, was a noble cause.

Dick was cartography’s best evangelist at the newspaper. He set high standards and continuously raised those standards. He taught several generations of editors that their stories were so much more clear and authoritative with a map. And by the time of his recent retirement, Dick had build a team of excellent cartographers to carry on what he started at the newspaper — Map Man’s legacy.

 

Richard Furno the Map Maker

While he was at National Geographic, Richard worked on The Moon Map and I’ve posted an extensive photo essay on that project here. That is just one of the many fabulous projects he’s worked on. Here’s a small image gallery of a few others (click on thumbnails to see larger view):

  

 

Richard Furno the Programmer

Before there was ArcMap or ArcView there was Azimuth, a CAD based mapping solution that we still use to this day at The Washington Post. It had geodatabases before that phrase was coined. It combines both thematic classes and layers into a single document where they can be freely mixed and matched, with multiple sets of database attributes, and Adobe Illustrator export. But more importantly, it also is the best tool out there for choosing an optimal map projection for the geography at hand and then quickly projecting raw data into a size appropriate for publication.

Richard saw the need for such a tool back in the 1980s when personal computers were just becoming available and taught himself how to program and steadily built in more functionality through the years.

I’ve noted significant milestones in Azimuth’s development below.

 

History of Azimuth

0.1 in 1982. IBM pc program command line, with menus. BASIC and then compiled. Could digitize with a 30  x 30 inch tablet output to pen plotter. All maps from 1980s mid in pen and paper. This is world loRes circa 1983, digitized world hiRes circa 1985.

1.0 in 1988. First Macintosh version via GraphSoft. From BASIC to Pascal. Only output perspectives… and could zoom in… Choose file and it would plot it (with a settings file) and output plot file.

2.0 in 1990 or 91. Now visible data layers.

2.5 in 1992. Mostly bug fixes, and new features.  Countries around 1992 or 3 which are all CIA country maps which became the basis for all the hires continentals (because they were from CIA).

3 skipped.

4.0 in 2001. Plugin to VectorWorks (known as MiniCad). Pascal to C++ in CodeWarrior.

4.5 in 2003. Raster image projection added. CodeWarrior.

5.0 in 2007. Modernizing code for new VectorWorks on Intel Macs.

5.5 in 2009. Adds new projections, datum support, bug fixes. From C++ to Cocoa / Carbon. X-Code.

Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 1 (Kelso)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy :)

Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.

This is part 1. Skip to part 2. View zoomable map at National Geographic.

My friend and cartography colleague Richard Furno retired from The Washington Post as of January 1st, 2009. He had a long and productive career first at National Geographic Maps starting in 1963 and afterwards for the newspaper making daily, deadline driven maps for publication in the next day’s newspaper from 1978 to 2008. He was a victim of a changing media landscape and dreery economic times. Read more about Richard Furno.

Richard has been a great mentor to me and we officially honored him last week in the NewsArt department. While he was at National Geographic, Richard worked on The Moon Map and I’d like to share it’s story with everyone around the globe. Because of it’s length, this blog post will be in 2 parts.

NOTE: You may also be interested in my photo essay on Toni Mair-Terrain Artist Extraordinaire.

The remainder of this post is taken directly from Dick’s Keynote presentation. Any references to “I” are in his first person, not mine. Photo and illustrations either (c) National Geographic or variety of  unnamed sources.

While I worked at the National Geographic, no map produced there was so closely tied to events occurring on the country’s and world’s political stage. With each of many developments — a new satellite, a capsule crash, an important space photo — our enthusiasm for or anticipation of actual publication of the Moon map was affected.

The principal author of the National Geographic’s Moon map was Dave Cook, not myself. The history below relates my involvement. Dave was virtually the sole designer. He was also the main researcher and writer of all the material on the map. He established contact with all the phenomenal people who took part in reviewing and editing the final map, many of whom were involved in NASA’s push to the Moon.

After the Moon map was finished, Dave went on to produce the Geographic’s Mars map showing the newly discovered topography as photographed by the spacecraft of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

When I finished this presentation, I sent it to Dave asking for his edits and urged that he make abundant additions of his own. He said it was “great” but didn’t take the time to add details of his own. I wish he had. This story is far from complete without his part.

Dave and I have been best of friends from 1963 to today and we continue to love astronomy and all things “space-programish”.

1959: Luna 3

In 1959, the Russians sent a spacecraft called Luna 3 into space that looped around the moon and took the first pictures of the… Far Side of the Moon.

There were many Russian space mission that jolted the citizens, and politicians, of the United States from Sputnik in 1957 well into the 1960′s. The Soviets seemed to be able to do anything in space that they chose. These were truly spectacular events.

At the time, the Soviets did not reveal the results of their space missions unless the Kremlin chose to do so. Much of what happened during their space effort wasn’t learned until after 1990. Their secrecy simply enhanced the U.S. drive to beat the Russians to the Moon.

Luna 3’s Far Side Photo

But the photos Luna 3 took were extremely disappointing (above). The right hand two-thirds of the photo is the Far Side of the Moon. The Russians made detailed maps out of this and a few other comparable photos, but they were simply attempts to apply a mass of Russian names to any and all possible features that they could discern. Eventually, only two features here are somewhat clear and their names have stuck. At bottom right is a dark crater with a bright central peak. They named it Tsiolkovsky. The dark patch toward the top was named the Sea of Moscow.

1959: Mercury Program Announced

America’s rollout of its first Mercury space capsule to the launch pad was literally an afterthought. When the US had its first test launch of a Mercury capsule, NASA hadn’t thought of a way to move it to the launch pad. Someone volunteered their flat bed truck. To prevent bumps on the road from being transferred to the capsule, a mattress was placed on the truck to act as a cushion (it’s just noticeable in the picture sandwiched between the capsule platform and the flat bed). Compare this jerry-rigged contraption with…

(Preview) Dec. 16, 1969: Apollo 13 Rollout

Ten years later in 1969 rocket technology had advanced (above). But let’s get back to our story…

1961: Alan Shepard Rockets into Space (Barely)

“Why don’t you light this candle?!!” Alan Shepard on the pad, May 5, 1961

Following the Soviet Union’s dramatic, first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin, the U.S. sent Alan Shepard into space. But Shepard’s flight was suborbital, far less dramatic and a month later than Gagarin’s flight. It lasted 15 minutes, traveled 116 miles high and went 298 miles downrange.

1961: Quest for the Moon

With just those 15 minutes worth of experience in space, President Kennedy made a startling announcement.

May, 1961: President Kennedy Announced We Were Going to Land on the Moon within 8 years!

America was well behind Russia in its space program. The Russians were succeeding in their space missions at an alarming yet. Yet with nothing more that 15 minutes of manned spaceflight experience,  Kennedy made a speech before Congress proposing the moon landing. The speech followed this exploratory memo sent to Vice President Johnson asking if there was any kind of space effort in which the U.S could catch up and beat Russia. President Kennedy wanted to devote “maximum effort” to such a program.

After meeting with NASA administrator Jim Webb and NASA scientists, Johnson came back with their mutually agreed upon idea to go to the Moon. Kennedy then drafted his famous speech. I was still in college but I was getting interested in astronomy and this got me interested in the MOON.

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