USA TODAY NETWORK celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic U.S. moon landing with a two-part augmented reality (AR) experience in the USA TODAY mobile app and the NETWORK’s first dedicated AR app, 321 Launch.
USA TODAY and FLORIDA TODAY collaborated to bring consumers an eight-day live AR broadcast focusing on six historical events from our nation’s inaugural moon landing. From liftoff to landing, users will get to view the mission in real-time just as it happened 50 years ago. USA TODAY’s emerging technology team created the virtual assets and media is sourced from NASA for the app update featuring the Apollo 11 mission. It will be available to download on July 4, and the live broadcasts begin on July 16 with new content launching through July 24.
Separately, on July 9, an AR interactive will be featured in the USA TODAY mobile app telling the story of the hardware and technology that was used by NASA for the Apollo 11 mission. Narrated by FLORIDA TODAY, users will learn about every stage of the Saturn V launch sequence, details of the command and lunar modules, and see how it all came together to take three astronauts to the moon.
“321 Launch was first shared with consumers over a year ago bringing AR to audiences across USA TODAY NETWORK and we’re excited to expand the app to celebrate this historical event,” said Ray Soto, director of emerging technology, Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK. “Through our ability to collaborate, we’re able to incorporate FLORIDA TODAY’s space expertise into augmented reality to make this a cutting-edge experience for users.”
Since its release in March 2018, 321 Launch has brought users a best-in-class AR rocket launch experience, live insights from FLORIDA TODAY’s space experts, and an animated hologram allowing users to follow rocket launches in real-time. Through the app, users have had the ability to watch more than 20 rocket launches using telemetry data, which generates a predictive flight path so users can follow speed, acceleration, and altitude live in AR.
In 1966, FLORIDA TODAY was founded to cover the emerging space program and was the first newspaper delivered to the moon on Apollo 14 in 1971. FLORIDA TODAY will commemorate the Apollo 11 anniversary with unique stories, videos, photo galleries, and a podcast focused on the people who made the moon landing possible. The content will also look at the current state of space exploration and space culture at floridatoday.com/moonlanding. Additionally, FLORIDA TODAY will release “The People of Apollo,” a documentary that tells the story of the Apollo program through the eyes of employees. It will premiere at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on July 2.
“We have a highly engaged audience who comes to us for our space expertise and we are thrilled to provide them with original and innovative space content alongside our colleagues at USA TODAY NETWORK,” said Mara Bellaby, executive editor of FLORIDA TODAY. “Given our deep roots on the Space Coast, we are uniquely positioned to bring this historic mission back to life for our audience.”
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is helping lead the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions, sparking conversations about the past, present and future of innovation and exploration. The Smithsonian’s celebration on July 16-20 includes Neil Armstrong’s iconic Apollo 11 spacesuit, back on display at the museum for the first time in 13 years starting July 16; Discover the Moon Day! on July 19; and a three-day celebration on the National Mall that will culminate with activities commemorating the exact moment the first steps were taken on the Moon on July 20. Learn more at Apollo50.si.edu.
The AR interactives will be available in 321 Launch beginning July 4 and in the USA TODAY app beginning July 9. For FLORIDA TODAY’s special commentative content starting early July, visit floridatoday.com/moonlanding. Additionally, USA TODAY will demonstrate the live broadcast experience at the Smithsonian’s Castle on July 20 in Washington, D.C. from 12 – 5 PM ET. For more information, visit https://airandspace.si.edu/events/usa-today-apollo-11-ar.
About USA TODAY NETWORK
USA TODAY NETWORK, part of Gannett Co, Inc. (NYSE: GCI), is the largest local-to-national media organization in the country, powered by our award-winning newsrooms and marketing solutions business. With deep roots in local communities spanning the U.S. with more than 100 brands, plus USA TODAY, we engage about 126 million people every month through a diverse portfolio of multi-platform content offerings and experiences. For more information, visit www.gannett.com.
About the Smithsonian
Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has been committed to inspiring generations through knowledge and discovery. It is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, consisting of 19 museums, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,300 Smithsonian employees and 7,300 volunteers. There were nearly 29 million visits to the Smithsonian in 2018. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at nearly 155 million, of which nearly 146 million are scientific specimens at the National Museum of Natural History. www.si.edu