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Michael Mewhinney                                                                            March 8, 2004

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.                                       

Phone: 650/604-3937 or 650/604-9000

E-mail: Michael.Mewhinney@nasa.gov


RELEASE:  04-15AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media are invited to attend a preview of a new 3-D visualization theater on Tuesday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon PST in the Mars Center at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.  News media representatives will be given a demonstration of the West Coast's largest SGI¨ Reality Center¨ facility, capable of immersing audiences in interactive 3D visualizations, multimedia presentations, and panoramic images that can be navigated in real time. To reach the Mars Center, which is located just outside NASA Ames Research Center's main gate, take the Moffett Field exit off U.S. 101. Follow the signs, proceed to the main gate and take an immediate right into the Mars Center parking lot. 

NASA TO OPEN NEW 3-D REALITY THEATER IN MARS CENTER

NASA will unveil an exciting new visualization theater tomorrow that produces stunning 3-D images that will enable visitors to take a virtual walk on Mars.

Developed by Silicon Graphics (SGI), the new SGI® Reality Center® facility opens to the public on Tuesday, March 9 in the Mars Center at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.  Powered by supercomputers, the new Reality Center facility is capable of immersing audiences in interactive 3D visualizations, multimedia presentations, and panoramic images that can be navigated in real time.  Featuring a curved display measuring 14 feet tall and 36 feet wide, the new Reality Center is the largest of its kind on the West Coast.

"We are delighted to be able to showcase NASA's numerous achievements in the new SGI Reality Center," said NASA Ames Research Center Director G. Scott Hubbard.  "This will be an invaluable information and educational tool for our Mars Center."

NASA's new Reality Center provides a seamless image across three projectors that are used to create the sense of being on the surface of Mars. The seamless image enables current NASA Mars Center staff to interact with these enormous 3-D models based on the latest images from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., by quickly panning and zooming with simple mouse movements.  

To celebrate the opening of the new theater, the Mars Center will feature a multimedia program produced by JPL, tracing the earliest observations of the red planet through NASA's various Mars exploration missions.

In coming weeks, Mars Center visitors will be able to view the latest high-resolution images from Mars that are downloaded daily from JPL.  Mission control engineers at JPL receive 168 images taken by the Mars Exploration Rovers every day and NASA engineers then use the images to create 360-degree panoramas of the red planet.

Designed to spotlight NASA's contributions to space exploration, Earth sciences, and the Silicon Valley technology community, the new Mars Center has quickly become a popular Bay Area attraction since the recent landings of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers. Over the past several weeks, more than 50,000 students, teachers and area residents have witnessed NASA's history-making achievements up close.

"The NASA Mars Center is a resounding success, allowing anyone to virtually stand on the Red Planet and take in its alien landscape," said Hubbard. "As we work on future NASA exploration and research missions, including human spaceflight, we look forward to continued collaborations with SGI," he added."SGI has worked closely with NASA to fuel the kind of innovation and discovery that has defined both organizations throughout their 20-year collaboration," said Bob Bishop, chairman and CEO, SGI. "SGI is committed to serving customers whose mission-critical applications demand real-time big data machines. We are delighted to be a part of yet another thrilling NASA mission, and we eagerly anticipate the discoveries that await us in the years to come."

For images of the Reality Center, visit:

http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/releases/2004/mars/reality_center.html

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