Connecticut Science Center
Opened Summer 2009
The exploration of space is driven by intense human curiosity about what lies beyond planet Earth. In Exploring Space, one of five galleries we designed at the new Connecticut Science Center, visitors investigate two different levels of exploration—sending manned and robotic missions to our nearest neighbors, the inner rocky bodies of the Solar System, the Moon and Mars, and using Earth-based and space-based telescopes and instruments to observe and probe the parts of space far too distant for humankind to reach.
Upon gallery entry, visitors are immersed in the manned exploration of space through a 19-screen montage that cycles through visualizations obtained from the inception of the space program to present day. The design approach, aimed at both economy and energy efficiency, requires only three projectors.
A darkened setting provides an immersion environment for signature components like the high-attraction Galaxy Explorer, whose multiple pods have become a must-see destination not only for families, but for adult participants in CSC’s popular Liquid Lounge evening events.
Upon reaching each site on their journey—a black hole, a star forming nebula, Earth’s radioshere or the farthest reaches of the Milky Way galaxy—visitors use a joystick for a period of 30 seconds to explore celestial objects rendered in real time as 3-D models. Interpretive narration provides context during the visually dramatic journey between each of the selected destinations.
Wrapped by a panoramic screen, visitors use a joystick to control their flight path in a virtual reality fly-over of Mars. We prototyped this component in our shop in order to determine the optimal presentation format for letting visitors engage with a new, extremely high resolution scientific data set. In the final installation, the challenge is to travel to some of the most striking regions of the Red Planet in search of evidence that water once flowed on its surface of Mars.
The Crater Maker component merges a physical event with interactive media. Visitors begin by shooting a projectile into a bed of fine powder, creating a crater. A high-speed camera shooting at 1,000 frames per second records the impact, saving image data to a computer system for retrieval. In playback mode, visitors are immediately able to replay their impact in slow motion, even frame by frame, using a knurled wheel to run forward or backward.