Press Release

NASA to open new 3-D reality theater in Mars Center

By SpaceRef Editor
March 9, 2004
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NASA will unveil an exciting new visualization theater tomorrow that
produces stunning
3-D images that will enable visitors to take a virtual walk on Mars.

Developed by Silicon Graphics (SGI), the new SGIÆ Reality CenterÆ
facility opens to the public on Tuesday, March 9 in the Mars Center
at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Powered by
supercomputers, the new Reality Center facility is capable of
immersing audiences in interactive 3D visualizations, multimedia
presentations, and panoramic images that can be navigated in real
time. Featuring a curved display measuring 14 feet tall and 36 feet
wide, the new Reality Center is the largest of its kind on the West

“We are delighted to be able to showcase NASA’s numerous achievements
in the new SGI Reality Center,” said NASA Ames Research Center
Director G. Scott Hubbard. “This will be an invaluable information
and educational tool for our Mars Center.”

NASA’s new Reality Center provides a seamless image across three
projectors that are used to create the sense of being on the surface
of Mars. The seamless image enables current NASA Mars Center staff to
interact with these enormous 3-D models based on the latest images
from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., by
quickly panning and zooming with simple mouse movements.

To celebrate the opening of the new theater, the Mars Center will
feature a multimedia program produced by JPL, tracing the earliest
observations of the red planet through NASA’s various Mars
exploration missions.

In coming weeks, Mars Center visitors will be able to view the latest
high-resolution images from Mars that are downloaded daily from JPL.
Mission control engineers at JPL receive 168 images taken by the Mars
Exploration Rovers every day and NASA engineers then use the images
to create 360-degree panoramas of the red planet.

Designed to spotlight NASA’s contributions to space exploration,
Earth sciences, and the Silicon Valley technology community, the new
Mars Center has quickly become a popular Bay Area attraction since
the recent landings of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration
Rovers. Over the past several weeks, more than 50,000 students,
teachers and area residents have witnessed NASA’s history-making
achievements up close.

“The NASA Mars Center is a resounding success, allowing anyone to
virtually stand on the Red Planet and take in its alien landscape,”
said Hubbard. “As we work on future NASA exploration and research
missions, including human spaceflight, we look forward to continued
collaborations with SGI,” he added.

“SGI has worked closely with NASA to fuel the kind of innovation and
discovery that has defined both organizations throughout their
20-year collaboration,” said Bob Bishop, chairman and CEO, SGI. “SGI
is committed to serving customers whose mission-critical applications
demand real-time big data machines. We are delighted to be a part of
yet another thrilling NASA mission, and we eagerly anticipate the
discoveries that await us in the years to come.”

SpaceRef staff editor.