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NASA's Vision Goes on the Road
11.16.05
 
In a rare opportunity, 1,250 employees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida stepped away from their desks and onto a path to moon, Mars and beyond. Their virtual field trip was courtesy of the agency's newest exhibit: the Vision for Space Exploration Experience.

Housed on a 53-foot-long trailer, the traveling exhibit is intended to inspire space enthusiasts as they embark on their simulated journey to the farthest reaches of the solar system. The Nov. 8-10 visit to Kennedy Space Center was part of the exhibit's cross-country tour.

Exterior of Vision for Space Exploration Experience trailerThe sleek, customized trailer features 12 on-board projectors and 15 on-board computers with surround vision screens that create a two-part exploration experience.

Image to left: The Vision for Space Exploration Experience is housed on a 53-foot-long, custom-designed trailer. Image credit: NASA

The action starts in the first room with an overall look at the vision and the future of space exploration. Visitors explore several points of interest on the moon and Mars using high-tech, holographic displays.

The next room offers a fully immersive experience with a seamless floor-to-wall-to-ceiling window providing a journey to otherworldly destinations. Surround vision screens lead visitors through a visually dynamic timeline of space exploration, from the early days of the Apollo moon landings to future missions to distant bodies such as the moons of gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. Thanks to holographic video screens on the room's interactive floor, visitors can even kick at rocks on the surfaces of the moon and Mars.

Brad Morris of Promotional Management Group, which operates the tractor-trailer, believes the interaction and "cool" factor are so important because the more fun people have, the more likely they are to agree with NASA's message.

First room inside Vision for Space Exploration trailerThat sentiment was echoed by United Space Alliance employee Travis Thompson, a member of the shuttle closeout crew. Thompson, who visited the exhibit with co-workers, thinks its positive message is encouraging as NASA prepares for space exploration with a new vehicle. "When we get to see things like this, it's really a good thing," he said.

Image to right: Inside the first room of the Vision for Space Exploration Experience, interactive displays allow visitors to virtually explore the moon and Mars. Image credit: NASA

After its stay at Kennedy, the exhibit spent Nov. 12-13 at the Stuart Air Show in Stuart, Fla. Its next stop: The Homestead-Miami Speedway in Miami for the NASCAR Homestead Ford 400 held Nov. 18-20.

The trailer is managed for NASA by Ai Signal Research Inc., at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The exhibit's first road trip was to a Boy Scout Jamboree in August 2005. Since then, approximately 50,000 people have experienced the Vision for Exploration trailer.
 
 
Anna Heiney
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center