Each summer I have one or two students who work with me on different projects, often involving some sort of visualization and astronomy. This year I had two brilliant students. This first post is about the work done by one of them: Kyle Harris. Kyle, in conjunction with a designer (Matthew Kaiser), developed an XBOX game themed around servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.
The original idea was simple:
- Develop a game for young kids interested in space or in science
- Use the game to teach about space, but try to retain the competitive nature of modern games
- The game should be playable in 5-15 minutes
- Focus on the Hubble repair mission
All the above had to happen in the 8 weeks of the Space Telescope Science Institute Summer Program: it did!
The game was developed as a missions with three tasks to accomplished, all related to the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. Three levels are available: Novice, Pilot, Astronaut.
Before capturing the Hubble Space Telescope the player needs to match its orbit, approach Hubble, deploy the robotic arm and grapple the telescope. As the game starts with the Shuttle already in the correct orbit, we added some small asteroids the player has to avoid in order to approach Hubble. Asteroid hits produce vibration on the xbox controller. Shuttle movements are not very vast to mimic the orbital behavior. Meteor damage is visualized on the Shuttle.
Once the robotic arm has been deployed, the player needs to capture Hubble. To do so, the player guides with its controller two colored circles representing the vertical and horizontal direction of the robotic arm as it moves toward the grapple point on the Hubble Space Telescope. Random movement was added to the motion in each direction, to make this task not as easy at it might seem.
Once Hubble has been capture and is in the Shuttle bay, repairs can take place. At the end of the repairs, players test the new capabilities of Hubble by pointing the telescope. The correct Hubble field of view is shown and users need to align Hubble's instruments (WF3 and ACS respectively) for observations. The alignment forces players to rotate the field of view to align 3 starts in the fine guidance sensors. Finish your task before time runs out!