I remember when I was around ten years old being glued to the TV set when they would broadcast both the Gemini and Apollo launches. Walter Cronkite would bring on astronauts who had flown prior missions to explain every facet of what was involved. I hung on their every word.
Now skip ahead about 20 years. The Space Shuttle was the latest thing, ferrying supplies to the International Space Station on a routine basis. It became so routine, however, that people were now ho-hum about space travel. As a result, coverage of launches disappeared from the airwaves altogether.
Now the fascination with space travel has been rekindled thanks to Elon Musk. Space X is writing a new chapter in the book. For example, booster rockets originally were used only one time and jettisoned to meet their fate in the ocean. With Space X, the boosters land back on a pad, are refurbished, and used in subsequent launches.
What really excites me is that now I can watch every launch live again thanks to 3・2・1 LAUNCH. And not only watch it, but experience it in a fashion as never before thanks to AR.
USA TODAY delivers a one-of-a-kind Augmented Reality rocket launch experience, with our space experts from Florida as your guides.
During a live launch, watch an AR hologram rocket lift off from any flat surface, mirroring the actual rocket mission in real-time.
• Telemetry data generates a predictive flight-path allowing you to follow the speed, acceleration, and altitude of an active launch.
• Tap to live video coverage of the launch and follow live commentary as you watch from anywhere in the world.
This is the kind of use of AR that really excites me.
3·2·1 LAUNCH, a joint venture between USA TODAY and FLORIDA TODAY, brings a visual perspective that you wouldn’t be able to achieve even if you were there in person.
The layout of the app is clean. Upon launch you’re presented with two choices: you can either try out the launch simulation in an interactive AR experience.
The first section of the app is an educational experience that runs through the pre-launch procedures and allows you to build a Falcon 9, drag it out to Launch Complex 40, learn about the hardware and launch it on a mission to the International Space Station. After liftoff, the experience shifts focus to landing the booster back at Cape Canaveral.
To learn more specifically about each component’s function, you’ll find blue dots on the graphic with +s. Click on one and it will explain in detail the hardware you’re looking at.
The second selection enables you to watch the actual Space X launch live. You have two choices: either view in full screen Live or follow the launch in AR while simultaneously watching the LIVE feed in the upper right corner with the telemetry statistics directly below.
Via a sidebar, you can access Space News, check the Launch Schedule, or tell others about the app and your experience via Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter.
I watched a recent launch on both an iPhone 8+ and an iPad Pro 10.5”. Naturally, because the of the increased real estate, viewing the launch on the iPad Pro was tremendous. But it was still quite hypnotic on the 8+. So, when you’re out and about you will still be able to enjoy the experience.
This probably is the only app that I have ever allowed push notifications on any of my mobile devices. But it’s well worth it. I can’t get enough of this stuff.
3·2·1 LAUNCH is available for free both on iOS and Android. Yes, you can see fascinating stuff in theaters. But this is real life. And you can’t top that.
©2018 Frank Petrie