Digital music business needs numbersense
The need to think about what you're seeing: an incomplete geography lesson

One is enough

If you blink, you might think the following graphic came from USA Today.


It turns out the Wall Street Journal has adopted USA-Today-style graphics. The chart about missions to the moon (together with two other similar ones) showed up this weekend.

There are only six data points, and the story is much simpler than the graphic implies.


The original chart uses three separate motifs to encode the six data points: the column height, the data label, and the axis. Usually only one is needed.


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In your graphic I have to count the icons to get a correct interpretation, because the astronaut icon is not as wide as the robot icon. I also think that the stacking in the original chart is useful to compare the total number of missions.


Dan: Based on the original caption, I did not feel comfortable that those two numbers could be added. Does "soft lunar landing" includes or excludes "manned missions"? I don't know. This is why my chart discourages adding, which I suppose I succeeded!


The text does state that China's landing was the 20th overall soft landing, so I think it's logical to assume that they are using manned missions (6) + unmanned missions (14).


A table is the only reasonable solution

Unmanned Manned
US 5 6
USSR 8 0
China 1 0


The biggest problem with this bar chart is the data. Who cares? The landings are broken up by country as though lunar exploration were an Olympic event, but even to the extent that the space race is still a proxy for international prestige and power, the number of soft landings feels a bit arbitrary and not very meaningful. There have been plenty of other successful lunar missions that don't fall into this category. Also, while the accompanying text does mention it, the graph completely ignores an important fact that would add context: the only recent landing is the Chinese one.

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