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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

NASA With Microsoft for Space Shuttle in 3-D

NASA and Microsoft have joined forces to give computer users a three-dimensional look of the space shuttle Endeavour as it is primed for a planned Wednesday launch.

Interactive views of Endeavour, its Pad 39A launch site in Florida and of the orbiter as it was assembled for its planned Aug. 8 launch were stitched together from hundreds of NASA photographs using Photosynth, a new imaging software created by Microsoft Live Labs.

"This collaboration with Microsoft gives the public a new way to explore and participate in America's space program," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, in a statement. "We are looking into ways of using this new technology to support future missions."

Created by the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and the University of Washington, the Photosynth software is designed to assemble between hundreds and thousands of digital images into a three-dimensional (3-D) scene of a subject. NASA's Photosynth image collections were created under a collaborative effort between the agency's Kennedy Space Center spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Microsoft's Live Labs.

"With Photosynth, we take pictures of an environment and knit them together into an experience that people can move through like a 3-D video game," Microsoft Live Labs architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas. "NASA provided us with some outstanding images and the result is an experience that will wow anyone wanting to get a closer look at the Endeavour and its travels."

In addition to views of Endeavour, NASA's Photosynth collection includes views of the Atlantis orbiter after its jumbo jet piggyback ride back to KSC following its June 22 landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the space agency said.

"We see potential to use Photosynth for a variety of future mission activities, from inspecting the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope to viewing landing sites on the moon and Mars," said Chris Kemp, director of Strategic Business Development at Ames.

NASA's space shuttle Endeavour is poised to launch towards the International Space Station at 6:36 p.m. EDT (2236 GMT) on Aug. 8 to haul cargo, spare parts and a new piece of starboard-side truss to the orbital laboratory.

Veteran shuttle flyer Scott Kelly is commanding Endeavour's seven-astronaut STS-118 crew. The mission also marks the first flight of educator-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan. The former McCall, Idaho schoolteacher was originally selected in 1985 to serve as NASA's backup Teacher in Space to New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who died aboard the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986.

Endeavour's up-to-14-day mission will mark NASA's second of up to four planned shuttle flights dedicated to space station construction this year.

More News on Photosynth
Photosynth uses hundreds of standard digital camera images to construct a three-dimensional view of an environment or "synth". These synths can be explored much like a video game, allowing you to explore, zoom into tiny details, and see where the photographer was standing (or flying) when they took the pictures.

Current collections include:

The interior and surrounding area of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest one-story building in the world, used for housing external fuel tanks and flight hardware, and the location of the Orbiter stacking with the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank to prepare for the space shuttle launch.
Endeavour on the launch pad including amazing detail shots taken from a helicopter
The previous flight STS-117 Shuttle Atlantis returning from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility.

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