Technology gives visitors the inside experience of life in space with Atlantis
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis is a major attraction in its own right. But, when Atlantis moved to its final destination at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the organizers aimed to tell a bigger story. They wanted to put Atlantis and the Shuttle Program in the context of America’s achievements in space exploration — and enable visitors to experience the drama and wonder of space travel. And, because there are so many other great attractions at the Visitor Center, this had to be special. Within the 90,000-square foot facility, the organizers saw opportunities to use technology to recreate the space environment and provide important educational information. The standard of the experience would have to match that of a planetarium in terms of visual imagery. And, there were great opportunities to involve visitors in astronauts’ activities through interaction and simulation.
The result is an interactive experience that gives visitors the opportunity to get a first hand feel for life in space on board the International Space Station — an immersive experience in sleeping, eating, exercising and functioning like an astronaut. There’s an Astronaut Training Experience where visitors train to live and work on distant planets through exciting and immersive simulation technology. Visitors can explore the Microgravity Theater and carry out simulated science experiments in space. There are amazing views of the earth from space, images from the world-famous Hubble telescope and recreations of living conditions inside Atlantis. Interactive touch screens allow visitors to explore all 135 shuttle missions. There’s even a simulation of a space walk, a shuttle re-entry slide and a chance to operate robotic arms and land a docking station – just like an astronaut. It took great technology to put Atlantis into space and now technology is recreating its amazing achievements. This experience boldly goes where no exhibition had gone before.
Interactive technology meets space technology in an immersive experience of more than 60 multimedia exhibits and audiovisual simulators.
Bringing space down to earth for a generation of digital-savvy visitors poses a big technology challenge. How do you recreate conditions inside a spacecraft? Is it still possible to WOW people who are bombarded with multimedia images every day? Space travel and the achievements of the Atlantis provide great raw material, but it would take a fusing of architecture, storytelling and technology to fire the imagination of a generation brought up on the movie wizardry of Star Wars.
The team were faced with challenges that required innovative technology. Recreating images from an ultra-precise telescope, using 3D depth-sensing systems and massive LCD screens to simulate a space walk or deploying touchscreens on the multi-axis movable pods that recreate the Atlantis crew module takes audiovisual technology to new frontiers. Many of the exhibits required custom-configured media servers and advanced solutions like video mapping not usually associated with visitor attractions. It wasn’t just the main arena that posed technology challenges. Anticipating a high level of interest, the organizers recognized that it would be important to engage visitors waiting to enter the main exhibition.
A pre-show immersive experience gives waiting visitors historical context through audio and video mapping. Multimedia presentations in the main arena include more than 60 interactive exhibits and audiovisual simulators. Visitors can explore shuttle missions or test their skills at performing a spacewalk, landing a capsule or operating a docking station. Two immersive theaters recreate space images from the perspective of astronauts and the Hubble Telescope.
"The Visitor Complex attracts more than 1.5 million guests from around the world. The Atlantis facility has added further value — visitors experience their own space adventure by exploring the exciting past, present and future of America’s space program. The immersive experience and the hands-on exhibits help to reinforce the Visitor Complex as one of Florida’s most popular tourist destinations. Throughout the installation process, the Design Consulting Group within Electrosonic remained engaged, representing our interests as architects and exhibit designers and ensuring that the design intent and functionality were maintained and protected throughout the design and build process." - Emily Howard, AIA, Project Architect PGAV Destinations