The Apollo 11 Landing Site Superimposed on a Baseball Diamond

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Our moon landing may have been grand, but our astronauts did not go far.

Apollo11_baseball2.jpg

As we've reflected on Neil Armstrong's death* and the Curiosity Rover's arrival on Mars, I've found myself trying to comprehend two radically different scales: 1) the sheer immensity of our solar system and 2) the tiny scale of our actual missions to other celestial bodies. 

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to think in the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of miles. At a certain size, the numbers seem so large they become arbitrary. 

The second scale, though, is graspable. The problem is that we don't have an intuitive sense of distance on the Moon or Mars. Particularly with Curiosity, we have nothing we can use as a reference size. The same is true for certain Apollo photographs, particularly because they've been distorted by the lens of time, too.

So, I appreciate that Maria Popova brought back this fantastic visualization of the Apollo 11 mission at Ex.plore.com. It presents the mission's travels superimposed on a baseball diamond. German space enthusiast Thomas Schwagmeier created the map for NASA's History office and it's not only revealing, but beautiful. The original "traverse map" on which it was based is seen below. (You can click on them both to see them at full size.)

a11traverse.jpg

* My initial post misspelled Neil as 'Neal,' a mistake that I truly regret.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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