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Friends in Space

2014 Samantha Cristoforetti

Imagine saying “Hello!” to an astronaut in orbit. “Friends in Space,” the first social network to reach the cosmos, leveraged live data to create a connection between earthlings and Samantha Cristoforetti: the first Italian woman in space.

Challenge

Help pioneering astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti keep in touch with fans while in orbit.

Solution

Outerspace's first social platform, powered by human interactions and data generated by the ISS.

Services

UX, UI, and data visualization design; Front & back–end development

Deliverables

Web platform; Social network

Process

“She liked the idea of doing something that wasn't scientific,” Lupi told Wired magazine. “Something that reminded people on Earth that there is a human up there talking to them.” With terabytes of data to work with, our primary challenge was to design an experience that brought home the feeling of a personal connection against astronomical odds.

In conceptualizing a platform, we took inspiration from the magic of ordinary meetings and decided on a friendly greeting for users to establish contact with Cristoforetti. The app’s nexus would be a green button with one word: “Hello!” Data fueled the experience, but a simple salute determined the course of development.

Meanwhile, we brainstormed additional features that would keep users engaged over the course of Cristoforetti’s six-month mission. We considered the audience’s likely interests and the broader motif of serendipitous encounters and determined to include components that allowed users to follow along with the journey and connect with like–minded armchair astronauts in the process.

Outcome & Press

Just three weeks after launch, two million “Hello!”s had been sent to Cristoforetti via Friends In Space. In total, thousands logged on for the length of Cristoforetti’s stay at the ISS. Back on earth, the web app was the subject of dazzling coverage in mainstream publications including Wired, Time, Fast Company, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and other outlets.

“Friends In Space is a fascinating site to toy around on. The visualizations and interactions are simple enough to make the data easy to grasp, but it’s complex enough that you’ll want to spend some time exploring, seeing how much more you can discover about the mission. Every so often a fuzzy conversation between the astronauts and mission control will pipe into your speaker—it’s a nice reminder of the wonderment that comes with space travel. In real time you’re hearing someone currently stationed far beyond our comprehension communicating with someone back on Earth. Now, we have the chance—no matter how simple a “hello” is—to communicate back.”

— Wired Magazine, 2014

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