2006 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Space Tourism: SpaceStationSim
Originating Technology/NASA Contribution
For over 5 years, people have been living and working in space on the International
Space Station (ISS), a state-of-the-art laboratory complex orbiting high above
the Earth. Offering a large, sustained microgravity environment that cannot be
duplicated on Earth, the ISS furthers humankind's knowledge of science and how
the body functions for extended periods of time in space - all of which will prove
vital on long-duration missions to Mars.
On-orbit construction of the station
began in November of 1998, with the launch of the Russian Zarya Control Module,
which provided battery power and fuel storage. This module was followed by additional
components and supplies over the course of several months. In November 2000, the
first IAA Expedition crew moved in.
Since then, the ISS has continued to
change and evolve. The space station is currently 240 feet wide, measured across
the solar arrays, and 171 feet long, from the NASA Destiny Laboratory to the Russian
Zvezda Habitation Module. It is 90 feet tall, and it weighs approximately 404,000
pounds. Crews inhabit a living space of about 15,000 cubic feet.
90 scientific investigations have been conducted on the space station. New results
from space station research, from basic science to exploration research, are being
published each month, and more breakthroughs are likely to come.
not all work on the space station, though. The orbiting home affords many of the
comforts one finds on Earth. There is a weightless "weight room" and even a musical
keyboard alongside research facilities. Holidays are observed, and with them,
traditional foods such as turkey and cobbler are eaten - with lemonade to wash
Vision Videogames, LLC, of Towson, Maryland, completed a Space Act Agreement with
NASA to create the interactive video game, SpaceStationSim, in which players role-play
as the NASA "Chief Administrator," managing astronauts on the ISS in a 3-D simulated
environment. The agreement was a continuation of one between NASA and GRS Games
before Vision Videogames management bought the company in March 2004.
agreement provided, for a set time, the company with information from, and access
to, NASA personnel so that it could make the most accurate game possible. NASA
personnel even volunteered to be beta testers for the new game.
president of Vision Videogames, said of the project, "The assistance and support
from NASA were invaluable, and the enthusiasm of the NASA personnel was great."
The company also received volunteers of assistance from a variety of space
experts and international agencies, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration
With this level of interest, expertise, and involvement,
Vision Videogames managed to create a game that is so accurate and realistic that
NASA is even exploring aspects of the game for mission planning.
in 2005, Vision Videogames worked with Raytheon Company, of Waltham, Massachusetts,
to demonstrate the viability of using a simulated systems engineering and integration
visualization platform for collaborative development environments. In fall 2005,
vision videogames completed a contract with NASA to use SpacesStationSim to simulate
the creation of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and crew, appropriately named SimCEV.
It is significantly more affordable and safe to model and test equipment and programs
in a simulated environment than it is to field test, especially when the field
is the Moon or Mars. The SpaceStationSim software engine provided "virtual vehicle"
assets, animation, and programming expertise for NASA to support the Vision for
SpaceStationSim is the latest in a long line of popular simulation
(SIM) games. Precursors include games that allow players to do everything from
building a city, an island, or a planet, to attending college, going out on the
town at night, or managing an amusement part, to masquerading as rock stars. There
is even a SIM variation that allows players to practice looking after pets. While
the ISS variation, then, is not that far-fetched, the difference is that it was
built to NASA technical specification and holds all the excitement and intrigue
that goes with actually living in space.
"We believe that one real day
at NASA is more exciting than an imaginary day anywhere else," Mueller explains.
"We intend to bring to a whole generation of young people a sense of ownership
in, and dedication to, NASA."
As the "Chief Administrator" of NASA, the
player creates crewmembers with unique needs, abilities, and personalities, and
manages their activities and relationships.
In this game, as in real life,
the astronauts face mission-critical situations, including meteor strikes and
decompression, while conducting microgravity experiments and dealing with troublesome
space tourists. The space tourists, included to offer a bit of comic relief, appear
on the station dressed for the beach or boardwalk, in full Hawaiian tourist attire.
They disrupt the astronauts as the crew goes about its chores repairing machinery,
conducting experiments, and trying to keep happy and healthy in the confines of
the space station.
The player monitors the crew as it performs experiments
and completes simple repairs. According to the game's instruction manual, "Through
strategy, design management, discovery and care of your crew, your ISS may usher
in the dawn of a new age for man among the stars or fail in a burning inferno!"
The game begins in the Mission Control Center, which is also where the player
returns regularly to launch new modules and components, recruit crewmembers, organize
supply missions, and monitor the game's currency, which is international goodwill,
measured in the form of international flags.
The player determines the
astronaut's strengths and weaknesses, and then these factors later come into play
on the ISS. If an astronaut is excessively playful and has a poor work ethic,
repairs might not be made, If the astronaut, on the other hand, is too focused
on work and is not interested in having fun, he may burn out over time and become
unhealthy and depressed. The skills and specialties of the astronauts also come
in play, as certain specialists are the only ones qualified to perform certain
tasks. A biomedical payload specialist, for example, can perform high-level biomedical
experiments, whereas an astrotechnology expert may be more adept at certain onsite
After the astronauts are blasted off to the station on a Russian Soyuz vehicle,
the player must manage the astronaut's activities by assigning tasks to keep them
happy, healthy, and productive. The astronauts are able to choose tasks on their
own, but initially, they need more guidance or they will make mistakes. Once they
have developed more experience, though, they become more self-sufficient, and
the player can focus on building the station.
As the game progresses, the
player constructs the station, adding additional sections and bringing needed
equipment and supplies to the virtual astronauts. The player coordinates with
Mission Control to determine which vehicles are available to carry different machinery
to the station. A player can choose between dozens of modules and stylized components
from NASA and its four exploration partners, JAXA, the Russian Space Agency, the
Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency.
Players can add experimental
equipment, items to make their lives and stay more comfortable, and can construct
their own unique station by building additions and components.
the game can be played on a personal computer, and a PlayStation 2 version is
PlayStation® is a registered trademark
of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc.
SpaceStationSimTM is a trademark
of Vision Videogames, LLC.