San Francisco: Man’s first trip to the moon is about to blast off anew in an online recreation intended to enthrall an Internet generation not yet born when the US mission made history 40 years ago.
A virtual reenactment of the Apollo 11 mission that put men on the moon and brought them back safely will launch on Thursday online at wechoosethemoon.org and incorporate new-age communication tools such as email alerts and Twitter.
Thursday is the 40th anniversary of the day astronauts rocketed into space to fulfill late president John F. Kennedy’s goal of showing the prowess of democracy by beating the former Soviet Union to the moon.
“President Barack Obama is seen as inspiring because he challenged people to do more than they envisioned themselves doing,” said Tom McNaught, spokesman for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum which is behind the online project.
“We are saying there was a president in the 1960s who felt the same way. Our mission is to share that legacy with new generations.”
Kennedy in 1961 made the NASA space program a top national priority because he thought it critical to “beat the Russians to the moon,” according to historians at the library.
The United States was being left behind in the space race by what was then the communist Soviet Union, which had launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957 and put cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth in 1961.
“Landing on the moon before the Russians was an absolute priority,” McNaught said.
“The only way to beat the Russians in the space race was to land on the moon before they did. President Kennedy wanted to show the world that democracy as a form of government could keep up with communism, if not surpass it.”
Apollo 11 progress and highlights from the launch count-down to 20 July, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, will be replayed online on their original time line.
Actual communications between the crew and mission control technicians will be streamed at the website as well as “tweets” on hot microblogging service Twitter, according to McNaught.
NASA recordings, film footage, photographs, and audio broadcasts have been woven into an interactive online replay of the drama of the mission.
“People are going to be able to hear, see and watch a lot more than they were able to in 1969; no media outlet covered it minute-by-minute for the four days,” McNaught said.
Email alerts will let people know the moment on 20 July when the space module landed on the moon.
“We created something interactive so young people can really get a sense of the achievement in 1969 when a man walked on the moon.”
Wechoosethemoon.org website will remain online for at least a year, with visitors being able to replay selected portions of the mission at their convenience.
“It is an anniversary being marked around the world and we are just delighted to have a part in it,” McNaught said.
“We have so many Americans who weren’t born at the time...There are so many new communication tools and so much new technology.”
Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and was not alive to see his goal of reaching the moon realized.