NASA Takes Hubble Nationwide Thanks to Scala
BALTIMORE, MD – Recreating the entire universe in a tiny manmade building is no easy task. Neither is getting budget-strapped planetariums up-to-date with the latest imagery downloaded every week from the Hubble Space Telescope. But thanks to the ingenuity of Scala and NASA, ViewSpace is doing both – and displayed so beautifully that it keeps people coming back for more.
ViewSpace started off as a CD-ROM publishing venture of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore using Scala’s older multimedia software package. The content was so fascinating and the presentation was so smooth that it wowed audiences from as far away as Germany. By last count, more than 100 museums and planetariums had subscribed to the monthly service. However, as the Hubble’s audience grew, so too did the costs of production. Imagine the time and cost of burning 100 CDs, making labels, and shipping packages. Every month. Now think about the logistics of getting each CD to the right person at every museum and planetarium and having to stop the current presentation and install the new one. Every month.
“I was getting sucked into a vortex when I needed to be creating content,” said John Stoke, STScI’s manager of informal science education.
It all added up to more than the nonprofit organization could handle, yet it was Stoke’s task to find new and exciting ways to bring what NASA had learned from the Hubble to the public. ViewSpace CDs were a nice first step, but the “sneaker net” approach of mailing updates was not going to allow him to focus on their mission.
Enter Scala’s InfoChannel 3. The Internet-ready application suite took Stoke’s presentations designed in Scala’s easy-to-use yet powerful for displaying to remote sites, all controlled from a single location. Now the STScI is taking the production/logistics nightmare out of the equation and ensuring that everyone receives the latest Hubble data and imagery right away with the click of a button in Scala’s InfoChannel Network Manager 3. Eight locations are already online, with new museums being added all the time.
Take the Mueller Planetarium, for instance, at the University of Nebraska. Images, text and pleasant music give visitors a look at the latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope through a direct computer connection via the STScI’s InfoChannel Network Manager.
“NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope delivers breathtaking views of the cosmos, forever altering our understanding of space and our place in it. ViewSpace portrays the beauty and power of the universe and gently guides the viewer to a deeper understanding of astronomy through lucid, wellpaced exposition,” says Jack Dunn, planetarium coordinator.
While initial costs may seem high, this is one exhibit that never goes out of date – with no additional on-site work needed – since it is updated periodically by the STScI directly from Baltimore. ViewSpace consists of a long, repeating loop of individual story segments. Each segment ranges from five or six to as much as fifteen minutes, and if certain segments don’t change from week to week, they don’t have to be retransmitted. The whole loop adds up to taking well over an hour before it repeats. The segments are designed so that people with timeor interest-constraints can wander in and out while still enjoying the experience. Because ViewSpace has a slow, meditative pace, there’s time to soak in the views and considerthe meaning. This is just what people do when they watch it – they interact with the message. And just how well does that all-important message get across? According to the North Museum of Natural History and Science in Lancaster, PA, ViewSpace has been nothing but “stunning, provocative, and professional.”
In fact, the new network-based ViewSpace just won an award from the American Association of Museums Media and Technology Committee for the “Highest Standards of Excellence in the use of Media and Technology for Interpretation and Education in Science.” No doubt thanks to the broadcast-quality presentation and publishing tools offered in Scala’s InfoChannel Designer 3 content creation package as well as the smooth display and on-air updates of Scala’s InfoChannel Player 3.