Asteroid Eros exploration fulldome sequence for NASA funded planetarium show "The Great Planet Adventures"


As part of a NASA three year educational grant concerning the future of American space exploration, the Houston Museum of Natural History, Louisiana Art and Science Museum and Rice University produced a fulldome vieo planetarium program entitled "The Great Planet Adventures." Orignally planned to be a return to the Moon, the future of NASA space exploration was redirected during the grant. The only planned mission is now aimed at a rendezvous with an asteroid. Home Run Pictures was asked to produce a realistically depicted mission to the asteroid Eros in a realistic near-future style.


NASA supplied the animation team with some models of spacecraft and spacesuit hardware that is currently on the design boards, but the main spacecraft eventually was configured using mostly modules from the International Space Station model we have built for previous animations... this does represent a potentially plausable route to create a craft for a near-Earth-object mission. The navagation or command area was designed and created from scratch to provide a spacecraft "bridge" with a more expansive view out the windows. This allowed for a more dramatic view of the asteroid Eros outside in the planetarium fulldome environment.


NASA's SEV, for Space Exploration Vehicle, was the second spacecraft that was used for the sequence. The vehicle is a transport craft that astronauts will use in various configuration, one with wheels for surface exploration and the one used here for space work away from the main spacecraft. An astronaut in an advanced spacesuit is seen exploring the surface of Eros while tethered in a mountain-climbing-like fashion since there is almost no gravity on the small asteroid.


Creating the surface of Eros was technically a challenge since only a rough 3D model of the actual asteroid was available for use. Home Run Pictures animator, Glen Johnson created a workable model by wrapping a tiled mesh around the general shape and adding texture detail by hand using photographs of the asteroid as a guide. The textures were layered to allow for a long sweeping zoom down to the surface that would add more detail as the view got closer. For the final view, the astronaut pushes away from the surface with only his tether acting like a bungie cord... space travelers have to have some fun after a long day of scientific exploring.

Click here for a Quicktime movie of the Eros sequence from "The Great Planet Adventures"


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