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On July 20, 1969, Earth was missing three of its humans. They had left for the moon four days earlier, and now, two of them were preparing to descend from lunar orbit and land in the Sea of Tranquility on the lunar module. Only those two could ever say what it was like to be onboard. But 50 years later, we can all take part in the famous mission, thanks to the Landing on the Moon AR (augmented reality) experience.
The Apollo 11 simulation on which you’re about to embark, which is the world’s most accurate 3-D re-creation of the moon landing, is the result of TIME’s partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, as well as years of painstaking research by Industrial Light and Magic CCO John Knoll. Told in two chapters, Landing on the Moon allows you to witness Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s landing from three breathtaking points of view; in Chapter 2, you can explore the surface of the moon, walk to the foot of the lunar module, and watch within inches of Neil Armstrong’s space suit as he plants the flag.
In addition to being photorealistic, the experience offers viewers a scientifically and historically accurate view of the landing. Knoll recreated the flight path of the lunar module using digitized telemetry graphs provided by NASA, while he calculated the position and orientation of the camera by analyzing lunar landmarks. The moon’s landscape was derived primarily from data collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe NASA launched in 2009, with smaller features taken from photographs using computer vision techniques. The result is a stunning and precise rendering of one of humankind’s greatest feats.
The rendering of Armstrong’s suit was provided by the Smithsonian’s Digitization Office.
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