ApplicationAR AppsAugmented Reality

Smithsonian Channel Launches AR App for Apollo 11 Anniversary

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission to the moon, the Smithsonian Channel takes its first step into AR with an app launched in conjunction with their original series “Apollo’s Moon Shot”.


The Smithsonian Channel is taking its first step into the world of AR. In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July 1969, the channel recently launched a new app as a companion piece to their original series “Apollo’s Moon Shot”.

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The Apollo’s Moon Shot AR app is a mix of historical information about the mission and interactive games. Users can take a selfie on the moon, fly a rocket from the Earth to the moon, as well as browse an interactive timeline about the history of the space race in the 1960s.

Taking the Plunge into AR

apollo AR app smithsonian channelCharles Poe, Smithsonian Channel’s senior vice president of production, said the channel has considered AR app for a while. He knew the content had to be right to make it a success. The moon landing’s cultural relevance as well as the ability to create games and other content around it made it a good choice.

“We knew we had a killer story and a killer moment for us to reach a broader audience with new technology,” Poe said. “Documentaries reach a certain audience that wants to enjoy the narrative. We’re hoping the app will reach other audiences that want new tools or ways to explore a story.”

The app includes historical photos and videos that came from the Smithsonian’s archives. Poe and the team worked to make sure that everything was historically accurate. They did not want to sacrifice the truth for the sake of a more compelling game or interactive experience.

“We were able to utilize the Smithsonian’s expertise and the actual 3D scans they conducted,” Poe said. “This is our first time in AR so we wanted to make sure we did it right. The historical accuracy transcends any part of a story we want to tell.”

Apollo 11 Takes Flight

smithsonian channel ar app apollo

Smithsonian Channel partnered with Immersion, a Polish company that specializes in creating virtual and augmented reality immersive experiences for museums and other institutions. It is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and Indonesian.

The app includes an authentic 3D scans of Neil Armstrong’s space suit and the very same lunar command module Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins used to complete the mission.

Details include close-ups of handwritten notes left by the astronauts in the module, as well as little-known facts about the mission and crew. Users can snap pictures and share content on social media. The Smithsonian Channel hopes this will help spread the word about the documentary and the app.

We see AR as something that can extend our brand and interest in Smithsonian Channel.

Poe said Smithsonian Channel is open to adding more content to the app in the future if it’s successful. He also hopes it will be the first of many AR experiences that are part of the channel’s content.

“Our brand and the stories we tell lend themselves to this,” Poe said. “We see AR as something that can extend our brand and interest in Smithsonian Channel.”

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Jenna Spinelle
the authorJenna Spinelle
Jenna Spinelle is a freelance journalist based in Pennsylvania. She loves learning about new ideas and new technologies and sharing that information with others. She holds a degree in journalism from Penn State University, and currently teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. When she's not writing or teaching, you can find her hosting and producing the Democracy Works podcast.