Celebrating Apollo 11 in Second Life and Sansar

Recalling Apollo 11 in Sansar and Second Life – the Apollo Museum in Sansar

July 16th 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on its historic voyage to the Moon which saw Neil Alden Armstrong and Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. set foot on the lunar surface on July 20th, while Michael Collins orbited some 11 km (69 mi) overhead.

I’m re-tracing the flight of Apollo 11 in my Space Sunday articles – part 1, published to coincide with the launch of Apollo 11 is available now, and part 2, covering the Moon landing and the return to Earth will follow on the weekend of the landing. But you can also celebrate the audacious achievement of Apollo 11 in-world in both Second Life and Sansar (and, I’m sure, in other virtual worlds as well – but I am focusing on SL and Sansar here, as it is in these worlds that I spend my time nowadays).

Second Life

Note: there are likely to be more Apollo 11 celebrations than recorded here. These are simply two I’ve enjoyed visiting.

International Spaceflight Museum

Where better to immerse yourself in all things space than the International Spaceflight Museum? Covering two regions, and with the likes of NASA’s (slightly ageing) Jet Propulsion Laboratory region adjoining or close by, the ISM allows you to take a walk through the history of international space-faring achievements, see the massive launch vehicles, re-visit missions both crewed and automated, travel the solar system, and take a glimpse of things to come.

ISM features several elements related to the Project Apollo and its precursor Project Gemini programme; for example, in the shadow of the Rocket Ring sit models of an Apollo Lunar Module (also known as the Lunar Excursion Module or LEM) and the combined Command and Service Modules (the former the capsule in which most of the Apollo crews flew to the Moon and in which all returned to Earth, the latter the power and propulsion system for the Command Module). These include cutaway schematics and other information.

Commemorating Apollo 11 at the ISM

However, located on the ISM’s Spaceport Bravo region, and in the lee of the mighty Saturn V lunch vehicle that carried every crewed Apollo lunar mission on its way to the Moon, is a display dedicated to Apollo 11 (as also seen at the SL16B celebrations in June 2019). It features a combined model of the Command and Service Module and a model of the Command Module itself that allows visitors a peek inside.

Close the this display is a model of the LRV – the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or “Moon buggy”. While this did not fly to the Moon until the Apollo J-class missions (15 through 17), it still stands as a reminder of the technical abilities of the Apollo programme.

While it didn’t fly to the Moon until Apollo 15, the Lunar Roving Vehicle played an important role in humanity’s first foray to the Moon

And if you want to get a feel for how truly massive the Saturn V rocket really was, then hop up onto the Mobile Launcher behind the Apollo 11 display.

Sitting atop a crawler / transporter the Mobile Launcher comprises the massive slate-grey launch platform base and the massive Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) that included all of the service arms required to support the rocket (nine in all) with fuel, power, and direct access. The most famous of these arms lay close to the top of the tower as it stood in attendance beside a Saturn V. This arm held the White Room – the room where the astronauts, assisted by pad technicians, boarded their Apollo Command Module. Sadly, the White Room doesn’t form a part of the ISM’s Saturn V Launcher model – but you can climb the stairs all the way up to the swing arm on which it sat, and in doing so gain an appreciation for the size of the rocket next to it.

Headline Apollo Exhibit

Headline Apollo  is a pop-up exhibition by Diamond Marchant taking place at the Beckridge Gallery curated by Emerald Marchant in Bellisseria. It takes as its theme a look at Apollo 11 from the perspective of a north Texas newspaper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram. In doing so, it offers a unique perspective on the mission – which was as we know, managed out of the Manned Spacecraft Centre (later renamed the Johnson Space Centre), located further south, near the Texas state capital, Houston.

Beckridge Gallery: Headline Apollo

Given the size of the Bellisseria Homes, they make for a cosy gallery space, but this actually makes Headline Apollo more of an intimate visit. A guide note card is available both at the entrance to the galley and in the foyer (and which includes copies of some of the images seen in the exhibition). The exhibition itself is broadly split in two: to the left of the entrance foyer the launch and the flight to the Moon, to the right, the surface mission and return to Earth.

What makes this exhibition engaging is that Apollo 11 and the Apollo lunar missions as a whole, tend to be remembered in a way that frame them on their own. There might be some ruminations on major events of the time – such as the Vietnam War -, but by-and-large they are presented in something of a bubble. Headline Apollo, however, with its reproductions of front pages and columns from the Fort Worth Star Telegram frames the story of the mission alongside that of daily life in Forth Worth and America as a whole.

For example, sitting alongside the reports of Apollo 11 are those of a more infamous event that took place in 1969, one that would become known as the Chappaquiddick incident, which involved the death of a young woman in a car driven by Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother of John F. Kennedy, who had started America on its journey to the Moon in 1961.

Beckridge Gallery: Headline Apollo

This story, and the more local ones appearing on the reproduced pages of the newspaper put the Apollo 11 mission is something of a different perspective. We’re reminded that for all its faults and weaknesses, humankind can raise itself up, seek to achieve something better, and the bravery of just three men in a tin can can unite us all in a hope for a better tomorrow.

Complete with archival NASA photos an cover pieces from the likes of Time and Life magazines, Headline Apollo offers a departure from the more usual Apollo retrospectives and will be open to visitors through until July 28th, 2019.

Sansar

Sansar may be anathema to some Second Life users, but if you have the hardware to enjoy it – and remember you can with a suitable PC and without the need for a VR headset – then frankly, there is no better way within a publicly accessible virtual world to celebrate Apollo 11 and the entire Apollo lunar endeavour than by visiting the Apollo Museum ant Tranquillity Base.

The Apollo Museum

The Apollo Museum remains one of the highlights of Sansar (if first wrote about it back in 2017). Developed by Sansar Studios, Loot Interactive and NASA, it reproduces the main hall of the Apollo/Saturn V Centre at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, to offer visitors a fully interactive guide to the Apollo programme.

The Apollo Museum: Apollo Lunar Module (r) and Saturn V

Here you can walk the length of a Apollo Saturn V launch vehicle, from the exhaust bells of its five mighty F-1 engines to the tip of the Launch Abort System tower. Along the way, and set out on  time-line, you can re-trace the journey of Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins from the launch of Apollo 11 through to its splashdown 8 days later.

This is done by walking up the left side of the Saturn V, where exquisite models (the Earth and Moon not being to scale admittedly) and photos mark the significant stages of the the mission as they unfolded, culminating in Apollo 11’s arrival at the Moon and Armstrong and Aldrin’s descent to the Moon’s surface. The story then resumes on the other side of the Saturn V’s nose, with the two men ascending back to orbit to link-up with Collins in the Command and Service Module, before charting the trio’s return to Earth and splashdown.

The Apollo Museum: the little models re-creating the flight of Apollo 11, these showing the TDE phase of the mission, when Michael Collins manually flew the Command and Service Module to dock with and extract the Lunar Module from the S-IVB upper stage of the Saturn V

With interactive disks available that play audio relevant audio recordings from the mission, it’s a marvellous way to understand the mission, even if I do have a small quibble with the Lunar Module’s legs being shown unfolded during the flight to the Moon (this was actually only the case with Apollo 13, when the LM was being used as a lifeboat).

Beyond this, on the upper sections of the gallery, are sections devoted to all of the Apollo crewed flights, from the tragedy of Apollo 1 through the triumph of Apollo 11 to the near-disaster of Apollo 13, and thence to the the sounding bell of Apollo 17. These also include interactive panels that will play audio when an avatar stands on them, and are bracketed by a complete model of an Apollo Lunar Module (also referred to as the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM) and a model of the Apollo 13 Command and Service Module showing the damaged and exposed part of the latter after it had been crippled by an explosion within a liquid oxygen tank.

The Apollo Museum

From a large disk under the Saturn V’s Launch Abort System tower, visitors can jump to Tranquillity Base, the landing area for Apollo 11.

Tranquillity Base

Also by Sansar Studios / Loot Interactive and NASA, Tranquillity Base reproduces the Apollo 11 Lunar Module as it sat on the Moon whilst Armstrong and Aldrin were on the lunar surface. This is a more static display when compared to the Apollo Museum, dominated by the Lunar Module and an overhead display which, when correctly aligned, provides insight into the surface equipment placed out on the lunar surface around the LM.

Visiting the individual elements will trigger playback of audio elements relevant to the science packages, whilst closer to the LM Armstrong’s famous statement on setting foot on the Moon’s surface can be heard.

Tranquillity Base: showing the Apollo 11 lunar Module Eagle in the background. In the middle of the picture is the Laser Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR), designed to gain accurate measurements of the Earth-Moon distance by reflecting lasers shot at it from Earth, and on the right, Passive Seismic Experiment Package designed to record “moonquakes”

And if you want to know how small the Earth looks from the surface of the Moon, be sure to tilt your camera up and around.

In Conclusion

As noted above, there are doubtless numerous other Apollo 11 celebrations – be they exhibits, parties or something else – across SL and other virtual worlds. But these are the ones I wanted to start here during this historic week. I hope you’ll take the time to drop-in and visits them.

SLurl Details

Advertisements

Firestorm 6.2.4: EAM and paving the way

On Monday, July 15th, 2019, Firestorm released version 6.2.4.57588 of their viewer.

However please note that this release is for Second Life only.

Essentially a  maintenance update, Firestorm 6.2.4.57588 brings the viewer up to parity with the official viewer, adding a range of fixes, improvements and updates from both Linden Lab and via the Firestorm team. The major new feature for this update is the Estate Access Management options.

As such, this release paves the way for Firestorm to be able to adopt the Lab’s Bakes On Mesh and Environment Enhancement Project, once these have in turn been released by Linden Lab.

Table of Contents

As per usual, this article provides an overview of the more visible updates in the release. Please refer to the release notes for a full list of updates and all associated credits. Also, note that this update means that version 5.0.11.53634 will be blocked from logging in to the Second Life grid in about three weeks.

A small personal note: my apologies to Firestorm users who may have been directed to this post by the Firestorm team’s release announcement or the Firestorm 6.2.457588 release notes and were unable to find it. My ISP suffered a major (8+ hour) outage some 90 minutes before the release was made, preventing me from uploading and posting this overview. 

Why A Second Life Only Release?

As noted above, Firestorm 6.2.4.57588 is for Second Life only. This is because Firestorm are changing how they support Second Life and OpenSim grids. You can read the full details in the official Firestorm blog post Second Life and OpenSim are No Longer Joined  at the  Hip, but in short, and in the future:

  • The Firestorm code is forked into two repositories: Second Life and OpenSim.
  • The Second Life dedicated viewer’s grid manager will only offer Agni and Aditi (SL main and beta grids).
  • The OpenSim dedicated viewer’s grid manager will NOT offer Second Life grids.
  • If you wish to access both OpenSim and Second Life, you will have to install both versions of Firestorm
  • the two versions will install entirely independently to one another and will not share settings or cache, so they will not conflict with each other.

To assist is identifying the two differernt grid versions, the Firestorm downalod pages has been changes to clearly differentiate between Second Life and OpenSim.

The revised Firestorm grid download selections

Note that at the time of writing, the OpenSim download page points to Firestorm 6.0.2.56680, which still works on both SL and OpenSim, and will use the same settings folders as 6.2.4. This will change with the next Firestorm update.

The Usual Before We Begin

As per my usual preamble:

  • There is no need to perform a clean install with this release if you do not wish to.
  • Do, however, make sure you back-up all your settings safely so you can restore them after installing 6.2.4.
  • Please refer to the official release notes for a full breakdown and changes, updates and credits associated with this release.

Lab Derived Updates

Firestorm 6.2.4.57588 brings the Firestorm viewer up to the current (at the time of writing) Linden Lab release viewer, version 6.2.3.527758, formerly the Rainbow RC viewer promoted on June 18th, 2019.In addition, this release includes some upstream fixes from current LL RC viewers, such as the HiDPI retina display support on Mac systems (Love Me Render RC).

Please refer to the Firestorm 6.2.4 release notes for details of specific Lab-derived fixes for this release.

Estate Access Management (EAM)

It has long been the case that the lists for managing access to a region / estate have been crammed into the General tab of the Region / Estate floater (World > Region / Estate or ALT-R). This has made the management of these lists – particularly the Banned list – difficult when reaching large numbers.

The Estate Access Management (EAM) project was introduced by Linden Lab to address the various shortfalls with the presentation of these list, through both back-end changes and a refactoring of the Region / Estate floater. Firestorm release 6.2.4.57588 includes the updated viewer UI, allowing estate owners and officers to make use of the improved tools.

In particular, the EAM moves the access control elements of the Region  / Estate viewer away from the General tab and into their own dedicated tab (show below).

Estate Access Management: as they have previously appeared (left) and as they are under EAM (right) – note: user names have been redacted from this lists shown

In terms of adding or removing names and groups, the new Access sub-tabs work in much the same way as the list boxes in previous releases. However, with the new design, additional functionality is added to some of the lists:

  • The Banned list additionally records:
    • The last date on which a banned individual logged-in to Second Life (to assist with housekeeping the list – if an account hasn’t been used in X months or years, why keep it on the list?).
    • The date on which an individual was banned.
    • The name of the estate officer / region holder who implemented the ban.
  • The Banned tab can be sorted into ascending / descending order by banned name, date last logged in, date banned, or by person banning them. Click on the column title to sort.
The Banned list provides more functionality: search, re-ordering, date banned, who did the banning (only applicable for banned implemented after the EAM back-end was deployed by Linden Lab earlier in 2019, pre-existing bans will have “n/a” in the new columns, as indicated by the Banned By column in this image. Note that names have been redacted from this list
  • The Estate Managers, Allowed and Allowed Groups tabs can be sorted into ascending / descending order by name. Click on the column title to sort.
  • The Allowed Groups, Allowed and Banned tabs all include a search option.
  • The number of allowed Estate Managers is increased from 10 EMs to 15 EMs – again in response to many requests from region holders.

Continue reading “Firestorm 6.2.4: EAM and paving the way”