Apollo 11 & Excel 2010 – Watch History Reimagined for a chance to win

When you think about it, the ease with which we’re able to process and visualize complex mathematics in the digital age is profound. Especially when you consider that it wasn’t that long ago that much of this work was done manually.

That got us thinking – what would it have been like if Excel had been around back then? How might things have been different?

Then we thought – what better moment in time to illustrate the point than the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. I mean, it literally is Rocket Science.

So, we decided to create a video to see how Excel might’ve helped the team at NASA work through some of the tensest moments in American history. Have a look and see what you think. Better yet, after watching the film, enter to win a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida (or one of many weekly drawings for an Xbox 360 with Kinect)*. All you have to do is watch the film.

Click here to watch the NASA video


So, what are some of the features of Excel that could’ve help get the Apollo 11 back from the moon?

Well, imagine if the team at NASA had the new Slicer functionality in Excel 2010. They would’ve been able to quickly and easily visualize their heaps of data to help them plan the mission. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use slicers. In fact, slicers can be helpful for visualizing data of all kinds.

Slicer applied to PivotTable data

If you’ve even seen even the simplest of datasets, you know that it can be difficult to easily spot trends and relationships. So, the team at NASA really had their hands full sifting through the mountains of data to plan and manage the mission to the moon. If only they had Sparklines, they could’ve identified some patterns in their data and avoided what turned out to be some very nervous moments.

Conditional formatting icons and sparklines 


Another key Excel feature that could’ve helped with the Apollo 11 mission is Conditional Formatting. They could’ve easily organized and emphasized important anomalies in their data. I imagine all said and done, it could’ve save months of manual analysis.

Applying conditional formatting


One of the most useful features for any Excel user is the ability to easily analyze, summarize and visualize your data with PivotTables. It’s essential to uncovering key insights and making informed decisions – regardless of topic. I bet the engineers at NASA would have given anything to that kind of tool (especially during the years of work that went into planning the mission).

Selecting fields in the PivotTable Field List

The important thing to remember from all of this is that we live in a time of unprecedented access to massive amounts of data of all kinds. Yet, without easy to use tools to help make sense of that data – it’s all for naught. With Excel 2010, making what’s increasingly complicated – simpler than ever before is a snap.

We look forward to hearing about all the interesting things you’re doing with Excel 2010.  We had fun making the film.

Oh, and check out the Office blog for the full run down on all the videos we created.


— Jamie Bothwell

Excel Team

*No purchase necessary. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of the 50 United States (incl. District of Columbia) and Canada age 18 years and older. Sweepstakes ends 8/17/2011. To enter and for official rules, including odds and prize descriptions, visit www.microsoft.com/office/office-documents-in-history/. Offer void in Quebec and where prohibited.