Once the U.S. planted a flag on the moon, it was easy to forget the trials and tribulations of the space race. But did you know that the United States and Soviet Union combined for eight failed missions to the moon within a single year? Eventually, the U.S. got the Pioneer 4 (their fifth attempt) to do a successful flyby in 1959. The Soviet Union followed a few months later by topping us big time—they actually landed with their Luna 2, a probe that looks straight out of 1960s sci-fi television.
It’s a story that you can follow in this pair of infographics created by Margot Trudell as part of her OCAD graduate thesis. They show every trip ever attempted or planned to the moon, be they flybys, probes, landers, or orbiters using a clever (if not entirely literal) scheme of concentric rings to convey the intent of each mission.
But if you like these infographics, you should check out Trudell’s entire graduate thesis, OMG Space. It’s one giant infographic website that explores our solar system on a true pixel scale. When I asked if we could share its grand graphic in full here, she explained that "the scale of the planets and the distances between them is too large to do in print."
And then she got really technical, in a graphic design explanation that may make you appreciate the size of our solar system just a little bit more:
For harder numbers: on omgspace.net, the heliosphere (the furthest object from the sun that I have listed) is 19,075,479 pixels from the sun. At 72dpi, that’s 264,937.208 inches, or 22,078.1 feet. The CN Tower (the second tallest building in the world; I also live in Toronto) is 1,815.4 feet tall. So if I were to print out the website (or create a graphic with the same proportions) at 72dpi, the resulting paper strip would be approximately 12 times the height of the CN Tower, or almost as high as Mt. Everest (which is 29,029 feet high). In short, creating a single graphic or print piece with all this information accurately depicted is nearly impossible, and at the very least extremely impractical.
Interestingly enough, we have seen the entire solar system captured quite successfully in one infographic before, but it used a series of tricks to compress the vast amounts of space at various scales. With OMG Space, Trudell did something almost unthinkable: She leveraged a web browser to create a real-scale model of the 10 billion kilometers in our solar system. Granted, it’s nearly impossible to follow, as a simple pattern of stars passes by your eyes at ridiculous speeds, and mountains of pixels leaped between blinks. But there’s no way around the most obvious of points: Space is really, really, really big. No graphic designer can capture its grandeur without abridging it, somehow.
[We dusted off this post from our archives to honor the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. It originally appeared on Co.Design July 7, 2012.]
[Hat tip: Core77]