I’m going to the Parkes Radio Telescope (in ‘the middle of a sheep paddock’, NSW, Australia) this weekend for the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary celebrations. It was featured in The Dish, a great movie that tells the story of how Parkes helped bring home the Apollo 11 Moon Landing TV images for the world to see. There’ll be a tour inside the building as well as family festivities, space themed talks and events all finishing with a screening of The Dish under the stars.

Super excited, I wanted a project to take with me that could add to the celebrations planned. What better way than with the Apollo 11 radio transcript, displayed live on an e-paper display badge? I was inspired by the Apollo 11 in Real Time website, Ben Eater has done a really good job with that so check it out if you haven’t already.

If you want to have a go at making this yourself there’s still a couple of days. I’ve supplied everything needed below which should make it easier, even if you need to adapt to a different display etc.

Parts for the project:

The ESP32 board I’m using has an e-paper display built in. I will display the most recent radio message (with a 50 year offset!) on it. The transcript is stored on the device. It uses wifi to connect and sync time with an NTP server.

I decided the easiest way to get the transcript on the device would be to upload the csv onto the ESP32 SPIFFS filesystem using this guide: Install ESP32 Filesystem Uploader in Arduino IDE

Once uploaded you can access it from the Arduino IDE. You’ll need the following libraries before compiling, all available in the library manager:

  • NTPClient
  • GxEPD
  • The rest should be installed by default

I didn’t put too much effort into power saving. The wifi could certainly be turned off between NTP updates etc. Since I’m going to have to connect to it via an iPhone hotspot (which will turn off when not in use) I decided to just stick with always on and keeping it simple.

For a nice case to store everything in I modified this one by admiral99 from Thingiverse in Meshmixer to add room for a LiPo battery. Unfortunately the license does not allow remixes so I can’t put it on Thingiverse. It’s not hard to do yourself if you need battery space. The other issue with the case is it didn’t really clip together so I needed to be a little creative, it involves a bit of bluetak around the edges. That combined with the keychain ring makes it secure enough for a couple days at Parkes.

The keychain ring and usb cable end up providing a pretty secure hold that keeps the display facing the right way and readable. The keychain ring fits between the gap of the e-paper display cable and the pcb gap without causing trouble.

Now to get some popcorn and settle in for the launch today.