Every Conversation That Happened During the First Moon Landing, Visualized

Nicholas Rougeux
Nicholas Rougeux

NASA’s transcripts from space missions can be incredibly colorful. During the Apollo 10 mission, a piece of poop that floated through the capsule sparked an argument over who did the doo (the answer is still unclear). During Gemini 3, pilot John Young revealed to his crew that he had smuggled a corned beef sandwich from Earth (“Smells, doesn’t it?” he remarked).

A new data visualization provides an interactive timeline for the transcripts from the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned trip to the moon and the origin of famous moments like “One small step for man …” Lunar Conversations, created by Chicago-based artist Nicholas Rougeux (who has previously visualized classic literature by its punctuation and turned sentences in famous novels into constellations), documents every transmission that was recorded during the mission, highlighting important moments and letting you see when the astronauts were most chatty.

The graphic visualizes each conversation as a bubble, with bigger bubbles corresponding to more verbose transmissions. The gray bubbles are the transmissions to Earth from space, and the blue bubbles represent things that NASA controllers on the ground said to the astronauts. When you hover on the bubble, you can see the transcript of what was said.

A poster version of the full visualization
Nicholas Rougeux

Rougeux writes on his blog that while most of the chatter was very technical, conversations “were very casual, including talk of munching on sandwiches, transmitting the daily news, and laughing about jokes.” The astronauts described what they saw around them, like “a rather remarkable cloud that appears in the vicinity of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan” and the powdery surface of the moon. Mission Control gave the astronauts updates on what was going on on the ground, including the results of the Miss Universe pageant and a House of Representatives vote on a tax bill. It also includes the phone call that the astronauts had with Richard Nixon after they had landed on the moon.

Reading through the transmissions is a good reminder of the humanity of now-legendary astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (really, who among us has not been late to answer a call because of “munching sandwiches”?) as well as just how much communication goes on between the astronauts and NASA’s team on the ground. The astronauts were in near-constant communication with Mission Control, and there are only rare gaps in the transcript. The astronauts were rigorously scheduled, with even their meals timed out. As a result, it can be difficult to single out specific transmissions, purely because there are so many of them.

You can explore for yourself—and buy it as a poster—here.

[h/t Flowing Data]

Want to Repurpose Old or Damaged Books? Turn Them Into DIY Wall Art

Svitlana Unuchko/iStock via Getty Images
Svitlana Unuchko/iStock via Getty Images

Many bibliophiles see their books as more than just reading material. Whether they're color-coded, stored backwards, or stacked around the house in teetering piles, books can double as decorations that add coziness and character to a space. This interior design trend spotted by Today pushes this concept to new heights by transforming old books into pieces of sprawling wall art.

Erin Kern, the Oklahoma designer behind the blog Cotton Stem, first had the idea to make books into DIY art in 2015. Her concept works with any books you have at home that you can bear to part with. Just grab a staple gun, secure the book covers to the wall you wish to embellish, and then use staples, glue, or tape to arrange the pages of the book however you like them. You can keep the book open to your favorite page or use some clever craft work to make the pages look like they're frozen mid-flip. As you expand the piece, you can add single pages or pages without their covers to vary the design.

Kern and other designers who've created their own versions of the project often combine old books with other types of wall decor. You can nestle framed prints of literary quotes or tuck air plants among the pages. Ana Ochoa of the blog Fiddle Leaf Interiors used hanging books as a makeshift canvas for a larger-than-life painting.

If seeing books stapled to a wall makes you cringe, rest assured that no one is suggesting you buy brand-new books to use as your crafting materials. This project is a great way to repurpose old books you never plan to read again—especially books with tears and missing pages that are too damaged to donate.

Looking for more literary design inspiration? Check out these pieces of furniture made out of books.


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[h/t Today]

Who Invented the Cardboard Box?

Feverpitched/iStock via Getty Images
Feverpitched/iStock via Getty Images

Few inventions have blended as seamlessly into our daily living routines as the humble cardboard box. We get excited to see piles of them near our front door. We stuff them with papers. Our cats love to claim them as their private living rooms. Yet we rarely stop to consider how much more convenient they are than a burlap sack. Who do we credit for this marvel of simple but indispensable ingenuity?

In the 1st and 2nd century BCE, the Han Dynasty of China was busy pioneering the use of paper. During the same era, sheets of bark from the Mulberry tree were used to wrap and protect food, one of the earliest examples of a sturdy, wood-based product being repurposed for packaging. But what we’d come to recognize as the earliest form of the cardboard box as we know it today didn’t appear until the early 19th century, with the 1817 German board game The Game of Besieging being the oldest example. Throughout the 19th century, companies began using the boxes as a means of storage and transport for cereals and even for moth eggs used by silk manufacturers.

But an additional twist—or pleat—was needed in order to turn these carriers into the cubical wonders we know today. In 1856, top hat peddlers Edward Allen and Edward Healey used a stiffer paper made with a fluted sheet in the middle of two layers to provide stability and warmth to the lining: It was a precursor to corrugated cardboard.

The real breakthrough, however, came in 1879. It was then that Robert Gair, owner of a Brooklyn paper factory, figured out that he could both score a single sheet of cardboard and then have his printing press cut it at the same time, eliminating laborious hand-cutting. When the flat pieces were folded together, the cardboard box as we know it was born.

Gair sold consumer product companies on this handy new form of storage, eventually scoring a 2-million-piece order from the cracker czars at Nabisco. Snack foods could now travel without the danger of being crushed, and, pretty soon, the cardboard box was migrating from kitchen cupboards to anywhere a cheap, effective form of packaging was needed. In the 1930s, the Finnish government even adopted the boxes as part of a take-home maternity package for new mothers who may not have been able to afford cribs. Babies took their first naps in the confines of the mattress-lined box—a practice that continues today.

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