NASA Ames Collaborates on Lunar Race Simulation Learning System
22 Aug 2006
(Source: NASA Headquarters)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has signed an agreement to collaborate with VirtueArts, Inc., and VirtuePlay, Inc., both of Los Angeles, Calif., for engineering and real-time simulation training in a variety of applications, including a dynamic learning system that allows users to virtually race lunar buggies on the moon in 3D.
The Lunar Racing Championship software simulates driving on the moon. It will be demonstrated to the public at the AIAA Space 2006 Conference & Exposition, Sept. 19-21 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Calif. News media will have an opportunity to drive the lunar buggies during a preview at NASA Ames Research Center on Thursday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PDT. The preview opportunity will be held in the Exploration Center, the large white dome located at the main gate to NASA Ames.
"The technology used in this type of software can help advance future NASA exploration by providing realistic simulations of complex missions," said Dan Rasky, a senior scientist at NASA Ames. "Immersion racing on the moon is the introduction to being on the moon."
The Lunar Racing Championship simulation was developed from actual lunar mission footage derived from the 1998 Clementine mission. The software realistically simulates the moon?s gravity, one sixth of that on Earth.
Under the terms of the three-year memorandum of understanding with VirtueArts, Inc., and VirtuePlay, Inc., NASA will collaborate with the two corporations in several areas of mutual interest, including engineering design tools, simulation and modeling tools, multi-disciplinary collaborative design tools, data visualization tools, multimedia outreach and education, logistics modeling and studies, mission planning, and human factors simulation studies.
During the simulated lunar races, drivers are seated in individual racing pods, complete with race car seats, force feedback steering wheels and gas and brake pedals. High-fidelity stereo, head-mounted displays with four-directional head-tracking devices enable drivers to look in any direction and see the racecourse, other racers and the lunar terrain in 3D.
Each lunar buggy is equipped with various thrusters to help maintain stability and traction, as well as jumps and bursts of speed. Each race lasts approximately five minutes and will take place in a variety of locations on the moon: Hadley Rille, Amundsen Crater, Alpine Valley and the Tycho Crater.
"The Lunar Racing Championship demonstration is a truly unique experience that combines the adrenaline-pumping immersion, with real low-gravity physics and the accurate terrain of the moon," said Steve Henderson, senior vice president of sales for VirtueArts, Inc.
"The Lunar Racing Championship not only provides immersion racing on a simulated lunar surface in virtual reality, it also creates a dynamic learning experience for the user," said Mary Duda, CEO/President of VirtuePlay, Inc. "Our goal is to transform education by immersing students in fun learning experiences."
Duda said she envisions that students who participate in the lunar races will be inspired to build their own lunar robots. Following the AIAA conference, the corporation plans to offer an online version of the lunar race experience to students and schools throughout the country, and provide lunar buggy tool kits to assist the students to build their lunar racers.
With this program, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and linkages between formal and informal education providers. Through hands-on, interactive educational activities, NASA is engaging students, educators, families, the general public and all agency stakeholders to increase Americans' science and technology literacy.