Thursday, July 30, 2009

Space Frontier Saturn V Moon Rocket Ride

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about forty years ago last week that Apollo 11 went to the moon, mankind landing on an alien surface for the first time in history. Many of us in Second Life know of space areas, such as the International Space Museum, but can one find a place where the moon landing is re-enacted?

The answer: Yes, but it’s not quite finished.

In the Space Frontier Workspace (formerly known as the Space Frontier Sandbox) near the Sci-Lands, there is a Saturn V rocket on a launch tower. Built to scale (two avatars at it’s base in the picture can just barely be seen), the rocket stands high in the air, connected to the red launch tower. The rocket is very realistically detailed, and includes a “sound HUD” for audio from the Apollo 11 mission (does not always work) which one gets by clicking an old-fashioned computer on the launchpad’s corner. This grand build was made by Wicked Quasimodo.

One enters the rocket by clicking on the command module, almost at the top of the Saturn V. The huge vehicle launches at 32 minutes past the hour, every hour, with the tower’s gantry retracting just a few minutes before. If you’re outside, it’s a spectacular sight as the great behemoth launches into the air. If you’re inside the rocket, you’re in for quite a ride.

I had the fortune of speaking to one of the people responsible for the sim, Rocket Sellers. “I was just mitigating some space debris here,” he told me, “impromptu erotic photo studio in the sky. ... I’m the owner of record here, and there’s a crew with cleaning powers. I try to clean politely so they do not reincarnate as pesky griefers.”

Asking about the Moon rocket, “It’s still a work in progress. This is Version Two. Wicked Quasimodo had an earlier build, but Havoc 4 broke it. This one is lower prim, and the lunar module is sculpty. It really should be on NASA property, but there’s no NASA region that will adopt it. He first tried on the NASA CoLab Testbed, but the sim was just too lagy, and there was just too much junk in the sky. So he began working on it here, with the idea it would find a home at NASA for the Apollo 11 Anniversary. Instead, NASA put some posters around with landmarks to here.”

“The first iteration did the whole flight profile, including splashdown back on Earth. ... The last time I took the trip (on this rocket), we only got to lunar orbit. ... I don’t know if it lands yet or not.” Rocket Sellers then mentioned a famous name dropping in, “Last week, we had an avatar named ‘Buzz Aldrin’ visiting here. I asked him if he had taken the Saturn V Apollo 11 ride to the Moon yet. He answered, ‘Yes, 40 years ago.’ ... I don’t believe it’s really Buzz, although I can’t figure out how he got the name. ... I guess Linden Labs is not assiduous about protecting famous names.”

Rocket Sellers invited me to go along for a ride on the Saturn V, and so we and one other person got aboard the command module. And at 32 past the hour, the rocket roared and thundered up into the air. The ride is best seen with Environment set to Midnight, and being a Second Life spaceship, the stages shake a little as it travels upward. Eventually, the first stage falls away, and then the second. Soon, the ship comes to orbit a megaprim Earth, “It’s very beautiful from up here” “Approaching New Guinea.”

There is a black square under the Moon rocket at this stage. Rocket Sellers explained, “That’s the work platform, and also when you transfer to the Lunar Module, it keeps you from falling through space.” The Command Module does have windows that you can see your avatar from the outside. But looking inside through either mouselook or panning, the inside is quite detailed with numerous instruments and panels.

Eventually, the faring on the last rocket stage separated, and the Lunar Module, folded up, appeared. The Command/Service Module then rotated, and connected to it. Passengers could then right-click to board it. The connected ships then went into Lunar orbit. Unfortunately, the ride did not progress any further. It had yet to be finished.

Despite this and the tiny flaws, this reporter, can only consider it a great and memorable build, especially if one is a space fan, or otherwise nostalgic for these glory days of the manned space program.

The Space Frontier Saturn V Moon Rocket is at Space Frontier (154, 126, 137).

“It’s good when a rocket or space person finds the place.”

Bixyl Shuftan

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