NASA launches mission simulator Web site

Online simulator lets the public pilot the space shuttle and visualize space communications

An interactive simulation Web site launched by NASA today enables anyone to experience space mission activities, such as docking the space shuttle at the International Space Station.

The online Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) simulation is designed to be both educational and entertaining, according to NASA officials who made the announcement. Other simulations include a trip to Mars and a lunar impact. The interactive simulation also offers a virtual 3-D experience to visualize how data travels along various space communications paths.


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"The elaborate space communications networks that connect scientists and engineers with NASA's spacecraft is essential to all of NASA's missions and can be a challenging concept to comprehend," said Barbara Adde, a policy and strategic communications manager for NASA's Office of Space Communications and Navigation. "This simulation helps explain this complex infrastructure in an engaging way by using an interactive 3-D game."

The simulation site allows visitors to select spacecraft and experience a flythrough with images and descriptions of NASA's three space communication networks. For example, the Near Earth Network flythrough shows how data originates at an antenna at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The data is then sent to NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, as it passes overhead.

"Making this interactive simulation available to young people is important and may lead them to consider a career in engineering, science or information technology as it relates to space," said Chris Kemp, chief information officer at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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