Two Colorful Infographic Wheels Used to Track the Apollo Missions 

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 15 2014 9:45 AM

Two Colorful Infographic Wheels Used to Track the Apollo Missions 

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The new book Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program, by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek, tracks the massive public relations campaign around NASA’s first spaceflights. Below are some crafty bits of press-kit schwag from Raytheon and IBM, two of the major contractors involved in the program.

Scott and Jurek remind us that the Apollo program, which ran from 1963 to 1972, employed 20,000 private-sector corporations, whose public relations departments significantly shaped coverage. NASA’s own public affairs team was relatively skimpy, comprising just 146 people when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July, 1969. The contractors had many more PR people on hand, with an interest in placing mentions of their products in the copious press coverage of the Apollo missions.


These tracking wheels represent two companies’ efforts to provide technical context, while distinguishing themselves from the piles of press releases on journalists’ desks. The Raytheon Apollo 13 analyzer was meant to help reporters translate NASA’s “Ground Elapsed Time” into familiar terms,  and see which events were on the flight plan for that day. The wheel featured images of Raytheon-manufactured parts, but just as decoration.

IBM’s Apollo 11 wheel is much simpler, and more directly promotional, matching IBM systems components to times they were used during the mission.

Click on the images below to reach zoomable versions.

Apollo 13 Mission Analyzer, Raytheon. "This analyzer reflected the mission plan had everything proceeded normally," Scott and Jurek write. "When the oxygen tank exploded in Apollo 13's service module, the lunar landing was aborted and the mission became one of survival."

Courtesy MIT Press.

Apollo 11 mission-tracking wheel, IBM.

Courtesy MIT Press.

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.



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