The Future Brought to You by NASA | Technology Infographic

NASA’s amazing contributions to our knowledge of rockets and space travel are just a small part of what they do. Decades of research have pushed materials science, health, information technology, and many unexpected fields to new frontiers. NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist commissioned an interactive poster to present the 14(!) technology areas central to their technology roadmap:

I asked Dennis Bonilla & Tate Srey (who produced this document in Tumult Hype) how they approached this project, and what it was like to distill so many technology projects into one unified interface:

When we were looking through the technology area data, we had to think of each Technology as though it were a ride or an attraction. Some technologies lend themselves very easily to that idea—like Robotics or Launch Systems. Some are a lot more conceptual like “Thermal Management Systems” or “Energy Storage.” For all of them, we went through a lot of sketches and idea development. But we knew we had a lot of flexibility in how we represented the technology. It didn’t need to be literal. So some of our initial ideas were very science fiction. But we had to balance that freedom with keeping it grounded with actual NASA technology—though some of it actually borders on sci-fi. There are certain iconic images like the EDL (Entry, Descent, and Landing system) where the capsule enters the atmosphere–that’s similar to the system that was used for Curiosity to Enter the Martian atmosphere.

Since Tate and Dennis began with a poster, and later added interactivity to the project, their challenge became what they call ‘plussing’ the static poster:

We were looking for ways of “plussing” the infographic. Plussing is a term we’ve adapted from Walt Disney to mean “making an idea better and adding more value to it”. The spinning globe was part of that effort. Throughout our development process we talk a lot about how to “plus” a piece. When we’re blue-skying ideas—no budget or schedule or constraint, some of the things we come up with can be pretty crazy. After we’ve met all the requirements, we have to evaluate which of those are actually doable and will also be the most impactful. We have to walk the fine line of making sure that plussing an idea doesn’t become feature creep. But most importantly we want to engage the audience without distracting them.

What are you waiting for? — discover The Future Brought to You by NASA and don’t miss their past work: NASA’s Exploration Roadmap. This roadmap, as you may have guessed, explores where and how NASA plans to explore the great beyond in the near future. (Also see the ‘making of’ post.)