„Die Welt bangt um die drei Astronauten” // „The World Fears for the Three Astronauts”

Category: Best visualization (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Austria

Organisation: Der Standard

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 19/07/2019

Credit: Daniela Yeoh, Sebastian Kienzl

Project description:

The article collects over 400 excerpts of contemporary documents from the days surrounding the first manned moon landing on July 20th, 1969 and presents them chronologically as a journey through this period of time. The documents encompass official recordings of transmissions between the crew of Apollo 11 and mission control as well as the technical protocols, miscellaneous photographs and headlines of newspaper articles in selected US-American and Austrian newspapers.

The material is presented in a mix of German and English, using German translations of the audio transcripts and the technical protocols while keeping the original language of the newspaper headlines.

Impact reached:

Since Austrian newspaper articles from the time are mostly only available in physical storage in the Austrian National Library, the article offers a unique review of how the moon landing was received in Austria’s media landscape and how this compared to the media response in the USA and the sequence of events on board of the Apollo 11 mission.

Techniques/technologies used:

The elements of information are placed along a timeline using the d3-scale library which also allowed us to easily employ a second, stretched time scale for the night from the 20th to the 21st of July to account for the the greater amount of material associated with the hours around the actual moon landing.

The list of displayed elements was compiled in a Google Spreadsheet and cleaned up and formatted into a JSON-file with consistent timestamps and all necessary information via a Node.js-script.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Austrian newspaper articles from the sixties are in large parts not yet digitized, so the headlines had to be researched in the Austrian National Library, where newspaper pages from the time are kept on microfilm and microfiche.

The placement of those newspaper clippings on the timeline also provided a challenge and required careful consideration since the media response to events on the mission was usually delayed by at least a few hours.

What can others learn from this project?

Because the sheer volume of elements even after selection resulted in a prohibitively long piece, we decided to offer two distinct reading modes to our users: The default „highlight“-mode used about 50 elements out of the 400 to provide a more streamlined experience and contains the most relevant information. The additional material stays visible as ticks on the overarching timeline and the reading mode can be switched seamlessly at all times with the click on a button. This way, readers always have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive view of some of the more absurd pieces of coverage, e.g. a report that there won’t be a change in working hours in Austria because of the moon landing.

Project links: