July 21, 2009

Google Me to the moon

Google product manager Michael Weiss-Malik demonstrates “Moon in Google Earth.” (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Google product manager Michael Weiss-Malik demonstrates “Moon in Google Earth.” (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin said the United States should focus on Mars. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin said the United States should focus on Mars. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

NASA deputy director Lori Garver makes remarks on Google’s new software. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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NASA deputy director Lori Garver makes remarks on Google’s new software. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Host Nick Clooney, far left, moderates a special program that includes John Grunsfeld, Laurie Leshin, Charlie Duke and Buzz Aldrin. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Host Nick Clooney, far left, moderates a special program that includes John Grunsfeld, Laurie Leshin, Charlie Duke and Buzz Aldrin. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

A packed audience watches the panel discussion. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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A packed audience watches the panel discussion. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Host Nick Clooney, far left, hosts a panel of former and current astronauts and NASA executives. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Host Nick Clooney, far left, hosts a panel of former and current astronauts and NASA executives. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

WASHINGTON — To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing on July 20, 1969, the Newseum was the official launchpad on July 20, 2009, for a return trip to the moon — courtesy of Google.

Google executives used the Newseum’s 40-foot-by-22-foot media screen to demonstrate "Moon in Google Earth," new software developed in partnership with NASA that allows users to visit from their desktops all six Apollo missions through an interactive, 3-D map of the lunar surface.

Digital images pinpoint landing sites and surrounding terrain, as well as various equipment and objects — called "human artifacts" — that were left on the moon by the Soviet Union, China, Japan, India and the European Union. Apollo astronauts offer guided tours of their missions through high-definition video.

The software, which took three years to complete, "can do everything except find your house" on the moon, said Michael Weiss-Malik, product manager for "Moon in Google Earth," who demonstrated the free tool.

Four interactive pods were set up in the Newseum lobby to give visitors a chance to test the software on their own.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, said that while revisiting the moon is important, the country should now aim for Mars.

"We are looking and analyzing with a fine-tooth comb things of the past," he said. "We have to inspire the young people of today to look to 2031, when we land on Mars."

Aldrin reemphasized his point during a standing-room-only special program, "The Apollo Legacy: The Moon and Beyond," that was held in the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater.

Veteran journalist Nick Clooney moderated a panel discussion with Aldrin, Charlie Duke of Apollo 16, John Grunsfeld, of the recent Hubble mission, and Goddard Space Flight Center deputy director Laurie Leshin. Remote hookups allowed students at science centers and museums in New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver and St. Louis to ask the panelists questions about space exploration.

"Going back into deep space kindles the human spirit," said Duke, the 10th person to walk on the moon who spent 71 hours on the lunar surface. "I hope I’m around to see those first footprints on Mars," he said

Watch highlights from the "Moon in Google Earth" press conference July 20 at the Newseum.

Related video: Moonstruck at the Newseum

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