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Virtual Reality Brings the International Space Station to the Classroom

December 16, 2019

On December 10, 2019, Civil Air Patrol George H W Bush Squadron TX-041’s Flight Officer Harrison Wissel-Littman (CAP) presented one of his best classes yet, this time on the fascinating visual simulations known as Virtual Reality. FO Wissel-Littmann provided a Virtual Reality (VR) headset borrowed from Texas A&M University. After explaining the VR technology, he allowed each cadet to wear the headset and experience life on board the International Space Station (ISS).

In VR, two images are joined together in much the same way as was used in "stereoscope viewers" a hundred years ago. The human brain overlays the two dimensional images into what appears to be a three dimensional image.

While wearing the VR headset, cadets enjoyed using the remote controller to navigate both inside and outside the ISS spacecraft. Motion sickness was felt by several cadets after they experimented with various functions of the simulator. It was amusing to watch the cadets "looking" all over the room, upward and downward, while they were trying to master the controller. When asked what they were "seeing", answers varied..."a satellite", "the earth".

The use of Visual Reality simulations is expanding throughout the world, as VR makes it possible for workers to be trained on dangerous or expensive equipment before they ever encounter the actual machinery. Amazing! Thank you for a most enjoyable lesson on VR, FO Wissel-Littmann!

A virtual reality headset is a head-mounted device that provides virtual reality for the wearer. Virtual reality (VR) headsets are widely used with video games but they are also used in other applications, including simulators and trainers. They comprise a stereoscopic head-mounted display (providing separate images for each eye), stereo sound, and head motion tracking sensors (which may include gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, structured light systems etc.). Some VR headsets also have eye tracking sensors and gaming controllers. (Per Wikipedia)

The International Space Station (ISS) serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS maintains an orbit with an average altitude of 400 kilometers (250 mi) by means of reboost maneuvers using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day. The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth. The ISS consists of pressurized habitation modules, structural trusses, solar arrays, radiators, docking ports, experiment bays and robotic arms. Major ISS modules have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets and US Space Shuttles. (Paraphrased/condensed from Wikipedia)

For More Information:

1st Lt Laura Simpson, CAP
TX-041 Public Affairs

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