Virtual space tech

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So you want to go to space ? Now ? Yesterday ? Darn, you are not an pilot ?! And not even a physicist with a couple of PhDs ? You must have a lot of money then ? No ? Sorry, mate, stand in the queue, err, take a bus that will take you to the end of it, somewhere on the horizon ..
There is a lot of progress in the field of micro and nano launchers, but at least me, i'm a tad out of nano category, so how then ?

What about a virtual reality, would that do, at least to lessen impatience and tensions in the line ?
If anyone with a computer connected to Net, some idea about space and will to make something about it, could try it there ?
I think it would, at least to the extent, and i'm not the first or the only one thinking that way.

I'm after this:
- it should be based on physical reality, which means celestial bodies orbiting, not just hanging there, proper mechanic, with all Newtons and Einsteins trickery;
- realistic hardware, engines, tanks, habitats, all the works based on something realistically doable, no unproven tech (maybe more precise about this later) ;
- 1st person perspective mostly, more MMORPG than strategic;
- real landscape, based as much as possible on publicly available photos and other data, such as height maps and spectral analysis;
- collaboration and organizational tools for participants, chats, shared drawing, video, external connections, tools for groups and bigger organizations;
- production facilities for participants;
- internal market for fabricated goods;
- distributed server system, similar to WWW server networks, with clients capable to transparently change servers and context.
- based on open source, to allow independence from any company policy.

From a first glance, i would compare this to a cross between Second Life and Eve on-line.
They both have their pluses and minuses but i'm not happy with any of them. They are definitely worth checking, which i did, but as i said, this is not it, mainly because i can't run my own server to mess with. Besides, they are both too virtual.

What would pass, would be for example Flight Simulator FSX or Flight Gear but for space and with multiplayer environment. Orbiter looks pretty neat, and i recommend you to watch Atlantis landing in the tutorial, it's really scary :)

Here is a list of software i'm currently checking, to see if it fits my purposes:

Mulitplayer server :
- Project DarkStar
- World Forge

3D engine:
- Ogre3D

Programming tools:
- Eclipse
- MinGW (gcc and binutils for Win)
- QT Tools
- CodeBlocks
- MS Visual Studio 2008 ... laylang=en

Graphic tools:
- Inkscape
- Sketchup
- Milkshape
- Blender

database server
- mySQL

binding tech
- Collada ... nge_Schema

There's a couple of existing open source 3d games, that could be re-purposed, but i haven't checked them under the hood yet, to see how much complication would that involve.

Finding 3d models to use is not such a show stopper these days anymore and here's some links:
- (Sketchup exports to Collada, no worries)
i'm not putting more, 'cause these are not so good, i bet there are better.

There are also many modding communities where you can find models complete with mesh, texture and skeleton, basic animations and so on. Life is much easier with these resources, just check what authors expect from you.
Example, not totally in context:

While i'm dreaming in technicolor(tm), others are getting ready to launch more of online games, like Star Trek On-Line and NASA Moonbase Alpha and perhaps more.

What else is out there ?


Celestia, free space simulation, with source :


Add-ons :


I got lost on Celestia add-on site above for the whole weekend, and i could stay there even longer. Here are some postcards:







HOT ! :cool: :p


I have a hard time staying away from Celestia, but Multiverse is alive and well and very interesting:

home page:
Develeper info: ... loper_Wiki

They provide tools and infrastructure for MMORPGs for free if you run your world for free, and 10% if you charge, or something like that.

Related projects:

The 1 year production of Lunar Quest by a team of ten researchers and developers came to a close in the summer of 2008. The final delivery consisted of a 3D Massive Multiplayer World set on the moon with a choice of ten playable male and female characters that incorporates five physics lessons of the college freshman level in ten Flash minigames all available for FREE to donwload at What a year!

Physics education for the 21st Century!

The latest massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) is not only fun — it's educational! RETRO Lab's Lunar Quest video game combines traditional video game play with the basic principles of kinematics.

Players arrive on the moon as Lunar Colonization Authority Cadets who are tasked with colonizing the moon for regular human habitation. Players solve puzzles, complete quests, and interact with fellow "Cadets" to make the moon habitable. To master the game, players must learn and then apply basic physics concepts, such as performing vector addition or calculating an object's velocity and acceleration.

Although the game is not yet complete, you can explore part of the world through Multiverse virtual game world. To download the free multiverse interface-which runs on Windows 2000 OS or higher- visit To learn more about Lunar Quest — including information on how you can participate with the pedagogical testing of it — contact the RETRO Lab at





There are more in development and partially finished.

Blue Mars is another virtual world, just gone open beta, very nice, but i guess, not what i'm after:



Celestia strikes again !
Titan, with clouds removed, glowing in the Sun :

Cassini visit, which has a very nice tour, your loss, if you don't check it:

This is extremely nice Celestia resource page, plan a weekend:
Selden's List of Resources for Celestia


Seams as if Celestia got permanent residence on my disks, but let's move on.

Here is one of the latest examples of virtual tech being used in telemedicine :
(A virtual physician's conference, Fraunhofer Institute) ... erence.jsp
I can see use of that in space.

Anyway, i checked most of the available worlds in Multiverse, could not connect to all, just three of them, but i admit, i checked only once. I could download resources from most of them, just had trouble connecting.

Multiverse world browser:

First stop: Places
My room after a lot of messing with:

You may notice the dialog i had with one of rare natives. Short one.

Way to a bar (i guess, when ppl are here, that's where they meet):

Looking around :

the bar:

Couldn't call this overpopulated ...

It has more functions on the interface, some small changes in the room, i noticed some enhancements in the world too, but the biggest difference is this:

It's a conference hall, which had live sessions at the beginning of the November, for which i'm a bit late. No scheduled events atm.


This is a most common reply here these days:

Here's a live one:


Lucky for me, i'm VIP, otherwise i'd be somewhere among those guys and gals:

Last stop, Force of Arms:



This one shows a lot of working sw infrastructure. Mobs, quests, traders, inventory, stats, .. nice.

There's no use of those fine mechs though, and well, a bit of polishing would not hurt, but it is working.


Just a short report from a FlightGear :
very alive, moments before a new release, and here is a sneak preview ( Release candidate 2.0 for Win32)

FlightGear Wiki:

Please report problems, if any.

The best done aircraft i tried are C172P, CitationX, A-10, f-14b, 737-100, Dragonfly, to name just a few.

Oh, and another example of virtual reality being used for real things:
Using Supercomputers To Explore Nuclear Energy article:
Supercomputer Breakthrough Allows Astronomers to Share Universe Simulations


Another example of meeting of the universes with space application :
Introducing RoSS, a 'flight simulator' for robotic surgery
February 25, 2010
A collaboration between the Center for Robotic Surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the University at Buffalo's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has produced one of the world's first simulators that closely approximates the "touch and feel" of the da Vinci robotic surgical system.

Backgrounder: A Decade of Innovation in UB's Virtual Reality Lab

Tactus Technologies

Tactus Technologies, Inc

Couple of articles about Virtual Reality from Physorg.


NASA Launches Interactive Simulation of Satellite Communications
March 9, 2010

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA today unveiled an interactive computer simulation that allows virtual explorers of all ages to dock the space shuttle at the International Space Station, experience a virtual trip to Mars or a lunar impact, and explore images of star formations taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA : Space Communication and Navigation network simulation
NASA : Space Communications and Navigation network


In short : WoW :cool:
It uses Celestia engine for animation, presentation and space render, runs very fast and smooth.

Definitely worth checking. I would drop in some pictures, but there are already Celestia pictures in this thread and all over the forum, so i leave it to the pleasant surprise.


I posted this in another thread, but fits here too :

ESA highlights online games as key future technology
23 March 2010
Video gaming has become one of the globe’s most popular pastimes. Fans say games are often educational, their detractors answer they are anything but. Might ESA have something to learn from gaming? A new Agency study says the answer is yes.

It comes from ESA’s Technology Observatory, which is tasked with scanning non-space sectors to look for developments with potential for spin-in or joint research. The study, Online Game Technology for Space Education and System Analysis, looks at potential applications of different online game-playing technologies from the simplest content-oriented games through to Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) virtual worlds.

The study highlights a number of ways in which these technologies could benefit ESA aims: immersive environments based on these technologies could enhance collaborative working of project scientists and engineers. It was also recognised that exciting online games could prove an excellent tool for promoting space and supporting the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths.

As part of the study, a video of a potential future game environment was produced, showing future human exploration of Jupiter’s ice moon Europa.

Exploratory learning environments

Learning through games

Related news, from SpaceRef :

MMORPG and Virtual World Platform Provider MindArk Completes Online Games Study Contract for European Space Agency
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MindArk PE AB, developer and publisher of Entropia Universe and Entropia Platform, announced today that a study on the use of online game technology for space-related purposes has been completed. The contract for the study was awarded to MindArk by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2009 and a film presenting the main findings is published on YouTube.

To illustrate the feasibility of the study findings MindArk has produced a visual mock-up based on a live game environment in Entropia Universe. This is available as a video on the MindArk channel on YouTube:
About MindArk

Sweden-based company MindArk are the creators of the Entropia Platform and Entropia Universe, a 3D virtual universe for entertainment, social interaction and e-commerce. The platform offers access to one of the most advanced Internet interaction venues available today, giving business partners the opportunity to create entirely new planets in Entropia Universe. Some of the themes in production by partners right now are shopping, games, social interaction, music and art. Entropia Universe is a free download available at the game's official website,

For more information on MindArk and the Entropia Platform, please contact us at the numbers below or go to our website at


This is also interesting, for chewing a lot of data, or even more, and then add some, and more +1 :

Federal News Radio :NASA's Nebula rolls out in the cloud
March 25, 2010 - 10:58am
By Dorothy Ramienski

Nebula is 18 months old and is literally rolling along.

Agencies across the federal government are exploring cloud computing, but NASA's work in the area could be become the poster child for its use.

Their Nebula Cloud Computing Platform at the Ames Research Center in California is being touted as a possible model for others.

Chris Kemp, chief information officer of NASA Ames, explains the benefits of Nebula.

"The real thrust of the project was making it easier for NASA to make its data accessible on the Web. NASA started using the Internet long ago, and, as a result, we have thousands of public-facing Web sites, and in today's environment, that's expensive to operate. It's also a large attack surface from a security perspective. We're trying to make it easier and more secure for NASA data to be accessed by our partners and the public."

Wiki : Cloud computing




Just downloaded and tried this - when i learn how to get it to full-screen it will be even better : : NASA Launches Version 2.0 of Station Spacewalk Game
Date Released: Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Source: NASA Education Office

NASA today launched an update to the Spacewalk Game that enables players to virtually experience astronauts' adventures on the International Space Station from their computers.

This latest version gives players an unlimited supply of oxygen so that they can explore and learn more about how the station is assembled, take a spacewalk to bring station communications back online by powering an auxiliary antenna, or help tiny satellites or the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) learn to fly in formation so that they can someday remotely help astronauts handle tasks. Players also can earn "badges" for completing missions and exploring the station. The updated game includes significant upgrades that load the game faster and make the graphics even more realistic. ... _game.html



Welcome to the International Space Station (ISS), Astronaut. In Station Spacewalk Game you'll experience the thrill of conducting NASA repair work on the International Space Station. After negotiating your way through the airlock, you, the astronaut, will be tasked with jobs critical to help power up the space station so it can continue to operate. First take your time to explore the station, but then it's time to get to work. You'll have to move quickly and carefully, with a limited quantity of oxygen you must complete your Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) and get back into the airlock before your air supply runs out.

This video game features simulations of actual EVAs conducted by NASA astronauts on missions to provide power to the space station. The graphics used in this game are based on real NASA missions and incorporate 3D graphics used by the Agency.

Download for Windows

Download for Mac


Guest : Could Gamers Save Our World?
Analysis by Tracy Staedter | Wed Mar 24, 2010 08:36 AM ET

I'm not talking about the virtual worlds found in World of Warcraft or Second Life. I'm talking about Earth, our motherland, la tierra. And I'm wondering if those people who spend 16 billion hours a year tapping keyboards or jiggling joysticks can save the world.

It's not my idea. In this TED Talk video, Jane McGonigal, director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., suggests that if we could harness the power of video games, where players collaborate and are given the incentive to become heroes, we could solve real-world problems.



I would like to see a virtual sim game with a light lag. Round trip to the moon is 2.5 seconds though I've heard some claim it could be longer because of latency, bandwidth and processing issues. A game player could move a virtual Robonaut and earth moving equipment over the lunar surface, bury Bigelow habs with regolith. Maybe haul ilmenite to a pyrolysis oven and move the O2 tanks to a cyrogenic region in a crater shadow.

If you're operating a lunar servicing bot, you could use a screw driver to remove panels and your hands to slide in circuit boards, clean dust from a joint and reseal it, etc.

Some say a 5 second light lag would make work impossible. But I bet a video game junkie could become quite proficient dealing with a 5 second lag.

I like to imagine something like the Wii, but a motion sensor on each knuckle of the fingers, parts of the wrist, shoulder and elbow, as well as parts of the head.


I like that, and i have a very strong suspicion that adding lag would not exactly be a problem .. :roll:

I will just drop here one more video, there are many related and even more with Jane McGonigal :

[youtube][/youtube] : Avant Game : The Lost Ring

Wiki : The Lost Ring


EarthlingX":25jw5l7u said:
I like that, and i have a very strong suspicion that adding lag would not exactly be a problem .. :roll:

I will just drop here one more video, there are many related and even more with Jane McGonigal :

There are a number of online communities where participants add to collaborative effort in building a body of knowledge.

For example: or

These two were pointed out to me by DeltaV in my own thread urging a multi user space sim game.

Another game I believe could be quite entertaining is finding routes from from points A to B using low delta V paths from Lagrange points. The chaotic paths in 3 body systems are crazy and hard to predict. I believe this is a situation where 1000 monkeys trying off the wall stuff can make surprising discoveries.

One attempt I made for a 3 body sim is here. But this is cumbersome and rather abstract.

I believe it's doable for a similar sim where the user specifies a date and Lagrange region and parameters are automatically loaded. Parameters would include sun, planet and moon masses, position vectors and velocity vectors in the setting. Celestia and Orbiter already do this, I believe. It seems to me doable to add position and velocity vectors of Lagrange regions in a neighborhood and allow the user to launch payloads in different speeds and directions from these regions.


Nice thread : : Space Sim multi-user game
and the rest shows you've been busy ;) :cool:

If you want to see how Celestia handles Ls, check Herschells orbit, but there are others too. I'm almost sure, it will surprise some people ;)


Any idea if Celestia's modeling of Titan's atmospheric colors is realistic?

Do you get this palette of colors anywhere inside the atmosphere, or is it just the default colors as seen from orbit applied to the view within the atmosphere?


I'm not sure, but i've seen similar images on Ciclops - Cassini page, so my guess is, it must be pretty close.

There is a bit of a problem with colours though, since humans can't see a lot of spectrum, and colour classifications are based on spectrum, numbers, not impressions, AFAIK. Sun is the first example that comes to mind.
Celestia developers are very strict about reality - they do not include anything not real - and i think i remember a discussion on this topic, which finished with a conclusion, that this colours are as real as they can be.

Another thing about game reality:
- i'am against time-compression, since it is just avoiding a real problem, and against the concept of a close-to-real thing. Boredom will be a problem for real travellers too, so why not tackle it ? There is also an interesting possibility of various malfunctions, crew discord, and a question - what more can you do, since you have plenty of time ?

Cheating with instantaneous communication is out too in my concept. If you want to do that, enjoy, but game should not make it possible with it's own mechanics - no faster than speed of light interaction or cause-effect mechanics, unless you can prove it works with real-life experiment, which might take a while in this case.

Heavier computations could be done, if game would support cluster computing, using client resources. This might be a bit problematic from a security point of view, but there are solutions for that too, without going into too much detail.
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