University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0065

Feb. 23, 1998


Cincinnati -- Following in the "leap" of Neil Armstrong means filling some mighty big space boots, but that's just what electronic artist Benjamin Britton, associate professor of fine art in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, is doing. And he's inviting the rest of "mankind" to do the same, via virtual reality, come the 30th anniversary of the first lunar landing July 20, 1999.

Britton's latest work, simply titled MOON, may represent one small keystroke for those who eventually participate in the multimedia masterpiece, but it's certainly a "giant" of an undertaking for this "virtual" artist.

MOON will mark 1999's 30th anniversary of the lunar mission with a virtual reality interpretation of the first moon landing (to be available on both DVD-ROM and via the Internet) tied to a television special. A DVD-ROM (Digital Video Disk-Read Only Memory) is similar to a CD-ROM in that it contains computer, video and/or audio information; however, a DVD-ROM delivers this information with much clearer, sharper quality.

In VR, Britton is recreating the first moon landing complete with astronauts, engineers and other personnel at NASA's (National Aereonautics and Space Administration) Houston headquarters as well as the audio recording of the first lunar approach and touch down. (Both NASA and the United States Air Force are providing technical information for the project.). Thus, a computer-savvy generation that never experienced the historic event will be able to "land" the lunar capsule, interact with VR versions of those key to this space mission (each character will have an artificial intelligence personality, and users can opt to experience the Apollo 11 mission as a specific character including Neil Armstrong, commander; Edwin Aldrin, lunar module pilot; Michael Collins, command module pilot; or an NASA engineer) and step out onto the lunar landscape.

"For the generation that witnessed and lived the 'conquest' of the moon, this is a way to revisit the tumultuous emotions of the era. It's a way to tie them to present and future generations that, otherwise, can never really know the enormity of the experience," explained Britton who will premiere MOON on July 20, 1999, tying it to a national television special.

That broadcast will contain a screen "tagline" of the Internet address of MOON for those without the DVD-ROM version. He hopes one of the astronauts from the mission will participate that evening, giving a guided tour in VR in order to convey his thoughts and impressions of the experience.

"I focused on the moon because of its importance to human life metaphorically and physically. It controls tides and rhythms here. In addition, the moon is our cultural metaphor for achieveing the impossible, setting ever greater challenges for ourselves. It represents both the past and future of humankind and puts our world in context, who we are as community and as individuals," Britton said.

MOON allows Britton to combine his two passions, science and art, just as his previous project, LASCAUX, did. LASCAUX, completed in 1996 and traveling the world since, is a VR recreation of the rock walls of France's Cave of Lascaux that has allowed Asian, North- and South American and European gallery audiences to "spelunk" these caverns where prehistoric man created paintings and carvings. With LASCAUX, a user wearing VR headgear moves within the cave using a joystick. Gallery audiences follow his progress on a nearby monitor screen as he travels the Chamber of the Engravings, the Axial Passage, the Well, the Nave and other parts of the cavern.

Using 21st century technology, LASCAUX offers a rare glimpse into the life and times of early humans 17,000 years ago since the actual Cave of Lascaux has been closed since 1963. It received worldwide attention during its development stages and first international exhibits from CNN, BBC Televsion, DISCOVER Magazine, Popular Science, the Los Angeles Times and a variety of other European and U.S. magazines, newspapers and television news/documentary programs.

Similarly, MOON which employs today's state-of-the-art tools to allow the public to relive this wonder-filled experience from the past, is already attracting attention with coverage from the Los Angeles Times earlier this year.

VR consultants and programmers, graphic artists and computer modelers are all contributing to MOON. In fact, finding the technical and creative personnel to aid with the construction of MOON remains Britton's greatest challenge as most of the funding received so far has been restricted and can only be used for equipment purchases. Thus far, MOOON has been funded by one-third of a $900,000 equipment grant in May 1997 from the Ohio Board of Regents to the Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites at DAAP. The project has also received portions of another $15,000 OBR equipment grant and portions of a $30,000 University Research Council grant.

To learn more about MOON and view images from the project, visit the MOON website.

Back to ASTRONET's home page
Terug naar ASTRONET's home page