NASAs island in the 3-D virtual world, Second Life (an online environment where more than 5 million user-controlled avatars can interact with each other) has simulated our new Age of Exploration with floating launch pads, mini-planets, space shuttles and an international space station for the collaborative sharing of science and technology (image above is the "Rocket Garden").
Anyone who has read Arthur C. Clarke's 3001 The Final Odyssey will remember the central importance of future virtual reality environments on Earth. Similarly, NASA sees Second Life as a natural test bed for building scientifically accurate representations of other worlds, based on data flowing in from interplanetary probes.
You can teleport through the International Spaceflight Museum, where 52 virtual rockets from 12 countries are on display — including a mammoth Saturn 5, a fully loaded space shuttle and the SpaceShipOne rocket plane. the museum will soon unveil a virtual space shuttle with moving parts and a cockpit that avatars can sit in, crafted by rocket builder Jimbo Perhaps. You can teleport to floating displays of the planets — a solar system lineup that still includes Pluto.
The island, which serves as Second Life's nexus for NASA and allied space groups, boasts a high-tech headquarters building, a mountaintop meeting room and amphitheater, and three levels of "skypods" floating directly above the mountain.
Some experiments are already under way on NASA's island complex, including the construction of a lava tube habitat, suitable for the moon or Mars, while another project is focusing on Martian habitat-building and terraforming.
Other real-world organizations are building outer-space views into their own virtual-world facilities. The Second Life Observatory, modeled after the University of Denver's Mount Evans Meyers-Womble Observatory, offers views of real astronomical targets through a virtual telescope. Posted by Casey Kazan. See other, related Daily Galaxy posts below.