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This is the source code for Spacelog, a website for experiencing space missions through radio transcripts and photography.

With the exception of the font and some icons (credited on the mission about page), everything outside the missions directory is released under the CC-0 license. Mission images are credited in the mission's _meta file.

We hope you have fun with this -- we have!

The Spacelog team

Getting involved without technical knowledge

Correcting minor errors

For small errors (whether transcription errors, or something like spelling mistakes on the rest of the site), it's probably easiest to just email them through to us at

Helping transcribe a new mission

If you download the PDFs from NASA for a mission you want to add, you'll discover that you can select text in them and copy it out into a text editor, or something like OpenOffice Writer, Apple's Pages or Microsoft Word. You'll see lots of lines that look like this:

02 07 55 20 CMP I believe we've had a problem here.

However some of the lines will have errors (from the small, such as O instead of 0, to the large such as entire lines being completely garbled). If you go back to the PDF, you can usually quite easily figure out what was originally typed out but which the automatic OCR didn't get right.

There are also some non-dialogue lines. These should all be indented by a single tab; the most important ones are:

    TAPE 2/1
    PAGE 9

which happen at the start of a new page of the PDF. In this case they mean that it's the first page of the transcript of tape 2, and is page 9 of the complete transcript. We particularly need the page number so we can link back to the original typescript in the site.

If you clean up the text version like this, and send it through to us, we can do the rest (although it may take us a bit of time). Since some of the missions are quite long (hundreds of pages of transcript), you may want to share the load between a group. Whether you do that or decide to go it alone, it'd be great if you could let us know at at what you're working on, so we can help you out, and make sure you don't duplicate others' effort.

A quick note about multiple transcripts

For Mercury-Atlas 6, there is only one transcript available, that of the air-to-ground radio communications (John Glenn's mike was hot through the entire mission). For Apollo 13, there is a second transcript from the Command Module recording, but it cuts out very early into the mission, so we didn't consider it worth including.

However for many other missions there are multiple transcripts. If you're adding missions to Spacelog, please keep these transcripts in different files. We don't yet have support to identify them distinctly, but if you move them all into one big file it'll be impossible for us ever to work on that!

Getting involved with technical knowledge

Getting set up

Source code

Clone the repository from git:

$ git clone git://

However for any changes you make (fixed, new missions, or even new website features), you will want to issue a pull request to us from another github repository). In order to do that, you'll need to set up a github account, and while logged in go to our repository there and hit the "fork" button (top right, near the search box). This will create a copy of Spacelog under your github user; you can then grab the SSH URL (which will look like<your user>/Spacelog.git) and use for git clone, as:

$ git clone <github SSH URL>

You can then make changes, commit them to your local copy (git commit), push them up to your github copy (git push) and finally send us a pull request (which you do via the github website). Github has some great guides to getting started with git and github linked from their homepage once you're signed in, in particular their description of forking a repository.

Software to install

We strongly recommend you use Docker and Docker Compose to work with Spacelog. It makes sure you're running your code in an environment that's like the real site, and doesn't require you to install dependencies manually.

You can follow Docker's installation guide here or, if you're on a Mac, you can install with homebrew by running:

brew install --cask docker

Running the code

Once you have Docker (including Docker Compose) installed, you should be able to run:

docker compose up

That will build the Docker container, containing all the current mission content, with CSS and code re-generated as it changes. Once that command finishes (it won't exit, but it will say things like “Starting development server”), you can point your web browser at and the global homepage should come up; from there you can navigate to other missions, which will appear at URLs such as The DNS is managed by us, and providing you're online everything will just work.

The details

If you can't use Docker, or simply if you wish to know how it all fits together under the skin, then here's the details. It's also helpful in case you're developing the code directly, since under certain circumstances the Django development server can crash, and will need restarting. Similarly if you add a new CSS file, you will currently have to restart the appropriate devcss server.

We use Overmind to run all the components of Spacelog. Those components are:

  • global: The Django application for the overall Spacelog project, with information about the various missions, the team, and so forth.
  • website: The Django application for the various mission sites, including their search engines.
  • redis: The storage that underlies both global and website, and contains all the data that those Django apps show. Redis's contents are generated when we build the Docker container, so if you change content (or want to rebuild the search index with make reindex, or the phase graphs with make statsporn), you need to rebuild the container (or run the relevant make commands inside your container).
  • nginx: We proxy access to global and website through Nginx because, where we host Spacelog, doesn't currently support multiple applications per “machine”, and advises using nginx proxies to handle projects that support multiple domains.
  • css: In development, we also run a process to update the CSS every 10th of a second.

The commands to run these servers are in Procfile (or for development), but they mostly just call out to Makefile tasks

Hosts setup for offline use

If you're not online, you can't use our development DNS, so you'll need edit /etc/hosts to include an alias, plus aliases of the form <mission>, such as and; these all need to point to localhost (or to your virtual machine, if that's how you develop things). For instance, here's an /etc/hosts entry using localhost (put this in addition to the localhost line already in there):

and here's one for a virtual machine (you'll need to change the dotted quad at the start of the line):


Whenever you edit information about a mission, or add a new one, you need to run make reindex again. If you get errors you may find the script in mcshred/src useful: just give it some transcript files and it'll tell you where it finds possible errors or weirdnesses. (For new missions, you'll probably have to add things into the valid speakers list at line 71.)

Note that a full make reindex can take a while, so you can index just a single mission by doing ENV/bin/python -m backend.indexer ma6 or similar (or just python -m backend.indexer ma6 if you aren't using a virtualenv.

Deploying to production

We host Spacelog on, and use Cloudflare for DNS management, caching, and so forth. If you think you should have access to these, you probably already know who to talk to.

If you want to manage our infrastructure in, you'll need to install their command-line tools.

The deployment configuration for is in the fly.toml file. To deploy changes (as we don't currently have continuous deployment set up), run:

fly deploy

At the moment, missions' DNS and certificates are configured in Fly and Cloudflare manually, so any new mission requires a new DNS entry in Cloudflare (pointing at the IPs listed in fly ips list), and a new certificate (by running fly certs add '<mission>' and adding the DNS entries it specifies). In future, we plan to simplify this by using wildcard certificates and DNS for missions.

External Source Images

We make use of external source images (which we haven't created ourselves) in the form of:

  • .pngs of transcript PDF pages
  • Original NASA photographs

For reasons of size these aren't stored in git, they're stored in the spacelog Amazon S3 bucket (served by Cloudfront on By default, our settings point you to this host. If you want to test adding your own images, you can change the MISSIONS\_IMAGE\_URL in website/configs/ to serve them locally. File a github ticket if you need images uploaded to S3.

Adding a new mission

You'll need to create a directory in missions. For Mercury-Redstone missions these should start mr, for Mercury-Atlas ma, for Gemini they start just g and for Apollo a. If anyone wants to do non-NASA missions, or Shuttle missions, then get in touch and we'll figure out a naming convention.

Look in transcript-file-format for a description of how we lay out files. If you're transcribing a mission we don't have, you will find the example _meta and TEC files useful, since they are the main two files you'll need to create (if you're going to include more than just the air-to-ground transcription, you'll want to put that in TEC, the command module transcript in CM, and so on). If you can make them in that format (or get as close as you can), and send them through to us along with a link to the original transcript PDFs you used, we'll do the rest. (If you are gifted in design, the source files for all the artwork we've created is available, although we haven't yet put it online -- yell if you need it as a basis for making things like orbital diagrams.)


The mission images folder (eg missions/a11/images) contains a number of images in standard locations and of standard sizes. This is an incomplete list. There are Photoshop templates available to help with constructing some of these (talk to the mailing list to get hold of them).

  • badge.png (200 pixels wide, square-ish) and badge_thumb.png (40x40 pixels): the mission patch, with a transparent background, designed for use on a dark background

  • avatars/ contains images for each character in the transcript, in one of the following forms:

    • transcript name: F.png, IWO_48.png
    • ground crew or similar: capcom_generic.jpg, charlie_duke.png, nixon.png, in black and white (ideally in shirt sleeves)
    • astronauts in flight: aldrin.jpg, armstrong.jpg, in black and white with a yellow filter applied (ideally in a spacesuit)
    • blank_avatar_48.png (default blank avatar)

    See the relevant wiki page for some helpful pre-built avatars.

  • people/ contains images used on the people page, for characters in the transcript we call out, which are constructed based on their role. The three role groups should have consistent sizes, typically up to 200 pixels wide and 150-200 pixels high (there's a fair amount of flexibility here, although 190x205 for the first two and 190x155 for the others was the original design).

    • astronaut: in colour (if possible); the aim is to get them in spacesuits or flight suits, although this isn't always possible
    • mission-ops-title: black and white (on the same page as astronauts; we generally include CAPCOM and Flight there as separate "characters" to explain these key roles, with people filling them or otherwise interesting to the mission as mission-ops)
    • mission-ops black and white (on another page)
  • a number of directories for images for each act, the details of which are managed in the_meta file's acts section, so can be anything, but are generally act1.jpg or act1.png etc

    • banners/: 1020x200 pixels, used as headers within the transcript
    • illustration/: 950-960 by 300-330 pixels, optional orbital diagram with spacecraft schematic (but could skip the orbital diagram eg for Apollo 9), used on the phases page
    • orbital/: 956x104 pixels, optional orbital diagram (only makes sense for moon missions), used in the expanded transcript footer
    • homepage/: 220x140 pixels, used on the mission homepage
      • This directory also contains a single background.jpg, which should be dark, and probably feathered toward the right and bottom edges. Size should be "large", but there are no particular dimensions or range of dimensions. Choose something that looks good.


For missions that resulted in fatalities, we do not aim to provide a regular site with a transcript. Instead, we can provide a small "memorial" site, controlled entirely from the _meta file. Set the memorial key to true, and the following keys will be used:

  • name, subdomains, featured, incomplete as normal
  • utc_launch_time is used for ordering on the Spacelog homepage
  • characters should contain only the astronauts, with:
    • name, mission_position, bio
    • photo, photo_width and photo_height
    • role of "astronaut"
    • optional quote, and optional quote_url
    • characters in memorials should not have stats
  • copy with:
    • title, upper_title, lower_title, description, summary
    • narrative (main body for memorial page, doesn't support HTML, should be a list of strings, each of which forms a paragraph)
    • image_attributions should contain details of the crew photo (url, title, attrib_url, attrib and license) unless it is public domain (which it usually will be)

Images (eg in missions/a1/images/) that should be in place are:

  • badge_thumb.png, badge.png (principally for sharing)
  • astronaut photos in people/ (typically official NASA headshots)
  • homepage/crew.jpg (ideally a photo of the entire crew in training), should be "large" (as homepage/background.jpg, but more foregroundy); on large screens it will be shown at 960px wide, and on narrower at full bleed (so on high density screens up to 1920px may be used)

Multiple transcripts

As noted above in the information for non-technical folk, if you clean up multiple different transcripts for a single mission (for instance you might do not only the TEC ("technical" ground-to-air) recording but also the CM and/or LM recordings), then please keep them in separate files rather than merging them.

Technical glossary

Within the system, there are a number of terms that describe pieces of the system but do not necessarily match what is shown on the websites.

  • TRANSCRIPT FILE -- our textual representation of the original transcript; see transcript-file-format/TEC for a commented example
  • TIMESTAMP -- four colon-separated numbers that represent the GET (Ground Elapsed Time), the time since launch within the mission; the four numbers are days, hours, minutes, seconds, so ignition is 00:00:00:00; these are used in the transcript files, and also in URLs
  • LOG LINE -- smallest linkable chunk, identified by timestamp and transcript file
  • RANGE -- a range between two timestamps (can be the same two)
  • LABEL -- a keyword applied to a range within a specific stream (note that labels are not currently used)
  • META FILE -- a per-mission file called _meta that contains information such as glossary items, pull quotes for the homepage, and acts (see transcript-file-format/_meta for a commented example
  • CHARACTER -- a speaker who appears in a transcript file; additional information about them appears in the meta file
  • SHIFT -- a range where one "role" character (such as CAPCOM or the flight director) can be identified with a "real" character (such as Charlie Duke or Deke Slayton); ranges are defined in the meta file

From this we generate a number of higher-level pieces which are used in the website.

  • ACT -- an editorially defined range that represents a segment of the mission, which may for instance reference orbital mechanics (in the websites these are referred to as phases)
  • KEY SCENE -- an editorially defined point in the transcript where an important event or exchange starts
  • STREAM -- a collection of related content arranged on a timeline


Characters are defined in a _meta key characters, which is a dictionary with keys the character identifiers in the transcript and values a further dictionary of information about that character. For instance:

    "characters": {
        "P": {
            "role": "astronaut",
            "name": "Virgil Ivan Grissom",
            "short_name": "Gus Grissom",
            "mission_position": "Pilot",
            "bio": "A few sentence biography",
            "photo": "grissom.jpg",
            "photo_width": 190,
            "photo_height": 205,
            "avatar": "grissom.jpg"

This defines the character P. bio, photo (stored in the mission's images/people directory; photo_width / photo_height should be set appropriately) are used on the people page.

role is based on initial usage, and so can be a little confusing. It should be one of astronaut, mission-ops, mission-ops-title or other (defaulting to other). Astronaut means a full-size, prominent place on the main people page (190x205 image with biography as above, and also support for stats and a quote); mission-ops-title will get a less prominent position on the main people page (190x205 with biography); mission-ops go on a second page (linked as "View Mission Control Team" from the main people page), where they get a 190x155 photo and brief biography.

When dealing with translations, you can also set the role to any of the above with '-alias' at the end (eg astronaut-alias, mission-ops-title-alias) and explicitly match the slug to the "real" character definition. Transcripts will show details from the alias (including short_name and avatar, but will link via the explicit slug to the "real" biography on the relevant people page, assuming there is one).

The people pages show the full name (the name key) and the mission position from the character definition. The short name is shown within the transcript, with the avatar (48x48, stored in the mission's images/avatars directory; astronauts get a yellow hue to differentiate them from those not in space during the mission) alongside.

Character stats and quotes

Characters with a role of "astronaut" can optionally have statistics and quotes, as shown below:

    "characters": {
        "CDR": {
          "role": "astronaut",
          "name": "James A. (Jim) Lovell, Jr.",
          "short_name": "Jim Lovell (CDR)",
          "mission_position": "Commander",
          "bio": "...",
          "photo": "lovell.png",
          "photo_width": 190,
          "photo_height": 205,
          "avatar": "jim_lovell.jpg",
          "stats": [
                "value": 715,
                "text": "hours in space"
                "value": 4,
                "text": "missions"
                "value": 42,
                "text": "age at launch"
          "quotable_log_line_id": "TEC:05:18:04:46"

The quote must be in the transcript, and is given as the transcript name followed by the GET of the logline. (This means you can't use loglines that have multiple speakers.)

There should be three stats, and you will likely have to juggle things around in order to make them fit the layout. We haven't used stats on all missions; it isn't always possible to find suitable figures for the astronauts involved.

The shift system

On longer missions, generic positions such as CAPCOM or F (flight director) are shared between several people operating in shifts. This is done by having a character dictionary key of shifts, whose value is a list of two element lists:

    "characters": {
        "STONY": {
          "role": "other",
          "name": "Blockhouse Comm",
          "short_name": "Stony",
          "shifts": [
            [ "DEKE_SLAYTON", "00:00:00:00" ]

This means that the first shift is taken by the character with identifier DEKE_SLAYTON, at GET 00:00:00:00. Since identifying shifts at this remove from the event isn't always straightforward, there will often be a third element in the list giving an annotation, justification or source:

    "characters": {
        "CC": {
            "role": "mission-ops-title",
            "name": "Capsule Communicator",
            "short_name": "CapCom",
            "bio": "...",
            "photo": "capcom.jpg",
            "photo_width": 190,
            "photo_height": 205,
            "avatar": "capcom_generic.png",
            "shifts": [
              ["JOE_KERWIN", "-00:01:00:00", "strictly, only Kerwin, Brand and Lousma were taking shifts (AFAICT), however other astronauts come on as CAPCOM in the original transcript, and we use the shift mechanism to display that properly"],
              ["JOHN_YOUNG", "00:04:39:01", "identified by PAO transcript"],
              ["JOE_KERWIN", "00:04:50:45"],
              ["VANCE_BRAND", "00:07:09:09"],
              ["JACK_LOUSMA", "00:16:00:00", "uncertain (and moot) since he doesn't appear in the transcript at this point"]

We also (as in the first example above, from Gus Grissom's Mercury-Redstone 4 flight) use the shift system to "delegate" a generic character (such as STONY, the callsign for an astronaut communicator in the blockhouse during Mercury launches) to a specific character (in this case Deke Slayton) who served in that role for the mission in question.


Glossary terms are defined in a dictionary from identifier (used in the transcripts) to an object with a number of (mostly optional) attributes. Missions can bring in shared glossaries (in missions/shared/glossary/) by having a _meta key of shared__glossaries containing a list of shared glossary names. They also have a per-mission glossary, in the _meta key glossary.

The following attributes are available to a glossary entry:

  • type: "abbreviation" or "jargon" (the latter is the default)
  • links: a list of objects (with url and caption attributes); currently not used
  • summary: short definition, typically the expansion for abbreviations
  • description: optional more detailed description of the term (for instance, "Drogue" is a glossary entry, with summary "Drogue parachute", and a description which explains what the drogues' purpose is)
  • description_lang, summary_lang and abbr_lang set the language code if not en-us

Glossary entries are referred to in transcripts (strictly in anything run through "linkify", which is also used for things like character biographies and quotes -- notably this includes glossary descriptions). Just do something like the following:


The second form allows you to use a glossary entry while using different display text. (Particularly useful if dealing with translations, since the glossary terms themselves will be in one language.)

Note that unless there's a description, the transcript won't link to the glossary, it'll just provide a title hover giving the glossary item summary.

The glossary page for each mission starts with the glossary_introduction copy key in _meta.

Time links

Similar to glossary references, parsed text can contain references to other parts of the mission. This is done using a time link, of the form [time:TIME] or [time:TIME|display]. The link time may be abbreviated (it's filled up to the four time components on the left with zeros, so if you use [time:02:15] the system will treat that as [time:00:00:02:15]. The link time must use colons as separators, although the transcript text may not: [time:02:42:08|02 42 07].

Code layout

The main code is two Django projects and a python library for managing transcript files into a redis data store. There is also a directory full of per-mission information (transcript files, images and so on), and some other tools directories.

  • website/ runs the per-mission websites (Django project)
  • global/ runs the project global homepage (Django project)
  • backend/ (python library to load transcript files into redis/xappy, generate stats images, and provide an API for accessing streams and other information)
  • transcript-file-format/ (documentation of the transcript file format)
  • missions/ contains the per-mission data, particularly the transcript files and meta file, but also images and so forth
  • tools/ (standalone python tools)
  • mcshred/ (python and perl programs for dealing with OCR data from NASA PDFs)
  • ext/ (historical mechanism used during development because pip doesn't work in forts)


Spacelog, a website for experiencing space missions through radio transcripts and photography.






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