One of my most successful projects nearly fell through the cracks. After the monumental effort and huge team involved in our Killing Kennedy project, there wasn’t quite the same enthusiasm around the agency for the follow-up, Live From Space. It was decided that we’d attack it from a leaner perspective, using fewer resources - probably a third of the people that worked on the Kennedy site. I was to take the lead and find a way to make it work.
National Geographic Channel’s mandate was to make a website that would sync up with a one-off live television broadcast, from both Mission Control in Houston and the International Space Station. We took that idea and went further, creating a website that synced with the ISS itself - no small feat considering it orbits the Earth at over 17,000 mph.
We wanted to ponder big questions, about borders and people and what it meant to see the world from 260 miles up. If you looked out the window of the ISS, straight down to Earth, what would you see there? What would the people be like, how would they speak, what music might they be listening to? Given that it makes a full Earth orbit every ninety minutes, you’d see quite the slice of culture. The food people eat, the places they visit, their Twitter conversations, even their favorite Youtube videos - the things that make us unique, and the things that unite us.
We brought the experience to life with math, science, and a little bit of art. ISS telemetry data was pulled direct from NASA. We cross-referenced the space station’s coordinates with real-time data from Foursquare, Instagram, iTunes, Twitter, Youtube, and many others. Advertising certainly isn’t rocket science, but in this case it sorta was.
We launched on time and on budget. The site is still live, continuing to track the incredible pace of one of humanity’s greatest creations. And other people thought it was pretty good too - in August 2014, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Live From Space an Emmy Award in the category of Social TV Experience.