A Starship Enterprise in Second Life big enough for an avatar crew

"Space. The Final Frontier..."

“Space. The Final Frontier…”

Cathy Foil is a creator of note. Among her many talents, she was the first to introduce fully sculpted foot in SL and put it in a high heel; she is the creator of the MayaStar mesh rigging plug-in for Maya, and she is, alongside the AvaStar folk, one of the prime movers in the Bento project. She is also a huge fan of The Original Series of Star TrekTM.

How big a fan, you ask? Well, let me put it to you this way: in 2008, before the birth of mesh in Second Life, she start started building an avatar-sized, scale replica of the Enterprise itself.  Almost two regions in length, with interiors from the Bridge to Engineering, it was a huge undertaking – albeit unfinished.

"These are the voyages..."

“These are the voyages…”

Part of the ship is currently once again rezzed in-world, although unfortunately in a location that is not open for public access. However, given July marks the 50th anniversary of when Star TrekTM first aired on US television, and marks the release of the 3rd film instalment from the “Abramaverse”, I took the opportunity to join Cathy on a tour of the original starship Enterprise NCC-1701.

“You best be in Mouselook when we beam up to her,” Cathy informed me as we arrived at two innocent-looking transporter disks lying in the sand. Following her instructions I stood on a pad, brought up the menu and slipped into Mouselook before alt-clicking my destination: Mr. Kylie’s Transporter Room 6. For a second, nothing happened; then a familiar hum filling the air, the beach before me started to sparkle, my universe flickered for a second, then the sparkling and noise faded and the transporter room emerged out of the glow.

Beaming aboard the Enterprise

Beaming aboard the Enterprise: the transporter room materialises before my eyes

Never have I felt quite so “on” the Enterprise as I did at that moment; stepping off the pad, I expected to see Mr. Kylie himself behind the transporter station and then hear that magical high-pitched hiss of the doors as Kirk and Spock arrived.

“The entire project took about eighteen months to get this far,” Cathy said as I admired the transporter, the control console and monitoring station, all beautifully re-created in prims and sculpts. “Most of the ship is rendered as sculpts with prim walls and floors,” Cathy said, leading me to the door which did give that squeaky hiss of opening at we approached. “That way we could reduce the prim count and make things manageable.” Sculpts they may be, but sculpts designed with care: no waiting for things to pop into existence in my view at all during the tour.

"Captain Kirk to the bridge!"

“Captain Kirk to the Bridge!”

The corridors outside were equally marvels: the familiar bold colours born of 1960s colour television programming, the intercoms at junctions, the gaudy doors (behind which, and depending upon which deck you’re on, sit crew quarters, officers quarters, the sickbay,  briefing rooms, offices, and main engineering), doors hissing in greeting or departure as you enter / leave. At the end of many of the corridors sit the familiar triangle archway of a turbolift station.

“These are all a single sculpt,” Cathy told me, as we walked to one of the arches, triggering an automatic call for a turbolift. “It includes the walls that connect the archway to the sides of the corridor so everything blends.” The car arrived and we stepped in. Touching the familiar handles gave a choice of destination. We headed for the Bridge.

The Bridge

The Bridge

“Most of the ship, including the textures, I made,” Cathy said in answer to my question as another spine-tingling sound – that of a turbolift in operation – filled the air. “Lora Chadbourne also contributed the shuttlecraft bay and some of the consoles like the monitoring console in the transporter room, another builder produced the interiors of the warp nacelles.”

The detail is extraordinary. The bridge stations are all painstakingly reproduced, the centre seat has the expected wood trim, Spock’s science station has the familiar scanner. Elements within the bridge are interactive. Touch the helm console, and up come a range of options – go to warp, fire phasers or photon torpedoes, accelerate to warp 8, etc., while the viewscreen offers a range of images, including that of the destroyed USS Constellation, as seen in the episode The Doomsday Machine and the Romulan Warbird from Balance of Terror. And all around are the familiar background noises.

"Spock, analysis!" - a close-up of Spock's library computer station

“Analysis, Mister Spock?” – a close-up of Spock’s library computer station

This level of detail and interaction is present throughout the ship – as are the ambient sounds. Back in the transporter room for example, you can toggle switches and operate the famous transporter activation sliders, while in Engineering, you can examine the ship’s dilithium crystals in their rack. A clever “stacked” use of textures gives an excellent a 3D effect in grilles and grates.

Drop into the briefing room, and you can flick individual rocker switches, call up images on the tri-screen, or use the intercom to call someone elsewhere in the ship. Down the corridor at the ship’s medical facilities you can work out to “Bones” McCoy’s satisfaction or pop into his lab where he has one of the parasites from Operation: Annihilate! under observation – although the little bugger is not averse to getting loose! Against the back wall of the lab sits the decompression chamber from Space Seed nearby. With working food replicators in the mess hall (fortunately tribble-free) and all the ambient sounds from the original, this is s ship that is really alive.

"Ma poor bairns!" Scotty's Engineering - note the floor plans marking the layout

“Ma poor bairns!” Scotty’s Engineering – note the floor plans marking the layout

To ensure accuracy, Cathy used a mix of the Franz Joseph blueprints from the ship, together with plans from the studio in laying out the interior spaces, although as she notes, she had to upscale things a little. “The whole ship is like 115% to scale, she said. “Had to be bigger than 100% because average male avatar in SL is like 7 feet tall, and then there is the camera position on top of that!”

As note above, the ship isn’t a completed model. Circumstance brought the project to a halt in 2009 when the two regions over which the Enterprise was located were let go, ending all Trek role-play there. When touring the ship, signs that it is still a work-in-progress can be found on the floors, some of which are textured with copies of the original Desilu Studio set plans from the show. Rather than detracting from the model, these add a further layer of authenticity and care in its construction.

The shuttlecraft bay is awash with detail

The shuttlecraft bay

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2016 viewer release summaries: week 29

Updates for the week ending Sunday, July 24th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers



  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version and the Experimental branch updated to version, both on July 23rd (release notes)

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Small World Art: lend a helping hand

Small World Art Gallery - sky galleries

Small World Art Gallery – sky galleries

In May I wrote about the Small World Art gallery in Second Life. Operated by Mikey Jefford (mikeythai), Small World Art (SWA) is a region-wide complex featuring two large gallery complexes on both the ground level of the region and also overhead (where there are a number of satellite galleries.

The main galleries are host to displays by many Second Life photographers and artists, including (but not limited to) Silas Merlin, Mistero Hifeng, Giovanna Cerise, Toy Soldier Thor, Nino Vichan, Gem Preiz, ieko Catnap,  Kayly Iali, StarZ (StarZ33 McCullough), Gita Aura, Barret Darkfold, Harter Fall, Artée (Artistide Despres), Fafner Hofmann, Maghda – the list goes on.

Small World Art Gallery - Silas Merlin

Small World Art Gallery – Silas Merlin

Such is the extent of the art on display in and around the galleries, that more than one visit is needed to take everything in. However, Mikey Jefford was recently taken ill in the physical world, and is currently unable to log-in to SL to cover the cost of the region tier, thus putting the galleries at risk.

In order to avoid this and ensure that tier continues to be paid, the gallery’s designer, Addi Tachikawa (Adrienne Falconer) and Mikey in-world partner, Mrs candy  Jefford (candy68) have put out donation kiosks around the gallery. These record both total donated, and the amounts paid out in tier in respect of keeping the region open.

Small World Art Gallery featured artist Elin Egoyan

Small World Art Gallery featured artist Elin Egoyan

SWA has a lot to offer anyone with an interest in art, and represents a significant commitment to art is Second Life. I therefore have no hesitation in once again in recommending a visit, and urge all those who do to consider donating towards its continued existence. Even if you are donation box averse, remember a percentage of to price of all art sold in the galleries also goes towards maintaining the region – so even buying copies of the art your particularly like during a visit can help.

Should you like to help with keeping the region open in any other way, please IM Candy or Addie in-world.

SLurl Details

The SWA region (Sardegna) is rated Adult.

Space Sunday: looking back, looking forward, looking inside

A composite image: The Apollo 11 Saturn V on LC 39A during a countdown demonstration test on July 11th, 1969, and the Apollo 11 crew (l to r): Commander Neil Armstrong; CSM Pilot Michael Collins and LEM Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin

A composite image: The Apollo 11 Saturn V on LC 39A during a countdown demonstration test on July 11th, 1969, and the Apollo 11 crew (l to r): Commander Neil Armstrong; CSM Pilot Michael Collins and LEM Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Credit: NASA (both)

July 20th marked two anniversaries, the first manned landing on the Moon (July 20th, 1969) by Apollo 11, and the first American automated soft-landing on Mars with Viking Lander 1 (July 20th, 1976). As such, I’m starting this Space Sunday with a short look at both events.

Apollo Lunar Module (LEM) Eagle arrived on the surface of the Moon at 20:18:04 UTC on July 20th, 1969 after being launched atop a Saturn V rocket along with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin from the Kennedy Space Centre Launch Complex 39A at 13:32:00 UTC on July 16th, 1969. It was the culmination of John F. Kennedy’s vision to re-assert America’s industrial and technological leadership in the world.

This composite of images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission from 2014 highlight elements of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon - notably the lower section of the LEM and some of the science equipment

This composite of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, released in 2014 highlight elements of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon – notably the descent section of the LEM and some of the science equipment – watch the video

The land was dramatic in every sense of the word. On separation from the Command Module, the LEM immediately experienced issues communicating directly with Earth, then there were the infamous 1202 master alarm which triggered the LEM’s landing computer to re-boot itself, followed by a 1201 alarm. Then there was the discovery that, fair from being smooth and flat, the main landing site was boulder strewn, forcing Armstrong to fly the LEM to the limits of its available descent fuel in order to find a suitable landing area.

Armstrong finally set foot on the Moon on July 21st at 02:56:15 UTC, after he and Aldrin (the LEM Pilot)  had been given the opportunity to rest. Aldrin followed Armstrong down the ladder 20 minutes later, and together they spent about 2.5 hours on the surface, collecting 21.5 kg (47.5 lbs) of lunar material for return to Earth. Their total time on the Moon was short – just under 22 hours – but Aldrin and Armstrong between them, seen in fuzzy black-and-white television footage and (later) crisp photos, forever changed humanity’s perception of the Moon and its place in the cosmos.

To Mark the 47th anniversary of the landing, which also saw Collins remain in orbit piloting the Command and Service Module (CSM), The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has produced a 3D tour (with other goodies) of the Apollo Command Module Columbia, as seen from the pilot’s (Collin’s) seat. This can be run in most browsers and offers a first-hand tour of the vehicle.

For those who prefer a visual record, NASA issued a restored film of the entire Apollo 11 EVA on YouTube in 2014. Or you can re-live the entire mission in just 100 seconds, courtesy of Spacecraft Films, which I’ve embedded below.

Apollo 11 was the first of six missions to the Moon (Apollo 13 being famously aborted after a critical failure within the Service Module whilst en route to the Moon), which concluded on December 19th, 1972, when Apollo 17 splashed down in the South Pacific Ocean, the only Apollo mission to fly a fully qualified geologist to the Moon (Harrison Schmitt).

In the 44 years since the end of the Apollo lunar project, human spaceflight has been confined to low-Earth orbit and will not move beyond it until the 2020s (with the uncrewed Exploration Mission 1 serving as the preliminary flight for that move in 2018). As such, it is all too easy to dwell on the political motivations which led to the programme, rather than on the phenomenal achievement Apollo actually was. Today’s plans for moving beyond LEO once more, and for sending Humans to Mars, may seem long overdue but they nevertheless build on the foundations laid down by Apollo.

The first "clean" image of the surface of Mars returned by Viking 1 on July 20th, 1976

The first “clean” image of the surface of Mars returned by Viking 1 on July 20th, 1976. Credit: NASA / public domain

Viking Lander 1 arrived on the surface of Mars seven years to the date after Apollo 11 arrived on the Moon – although that hadn’t been the original intent. 1976 saw the United States celebrating its bicentennial, and it had originally been intended that the Lander would touch-down on the Red Planet on July 4th of that year.

However, after arriving in orbit on June 19th, 1976, the Viking orbiter craft used its imagining systems to survey the proposed landing site, which had been “scouted” from orbit  by the Mariner 9 mission  – the first vehicle to orbit Mars – in 1971 / 72. Unfortunately, the Viking orbiter’s much more capable cameras revealed the primary landing site to be far rougher than had been believed, leading to a decision not to land there, but to survey the back-up sites prior to committing to a landing on July 20th, and thus to instead celebrate Apollo 11’s triumph instead of America’s Independence Day.

Given the state of play of planetary exploration at the time, Viking was a massively impressive mission: two orbiter vehicles launched back-to-back, carrying two lander vehicles in turn carrying an impressive set of 5 experiments intended to seek signs of life on Mars. At the time, no-one actually knew the density of the Martian upper atmosphere or the load-bearing strength of the Martian surface or what they might actually find on the surface. There were genuine fears that the latter might be all dust, and the lander could simply dig itself a hole when firing its retro-rockets at the final point of landing and then fall into it, or if it did arrive safely, whether it might sink into the Martian dust; hence why the first image to be returned by the lander following touchdown prominently featured one of its own landing pads (above).

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