A Purdue University Calumet professor’s role in Thursday’s (5/14) Planck satellite space mission launch has paved the way for community members to experience a virtual reality simulation of the mission on campus.
Purdue Calumet Assistant Professor of Science Education Jatila van der Veen, who came to Purdue Calumet last fall from the University of California, Santa Barbara, has served as lead education and public outreach officer for Planck since September of 2007.
With a grant received from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Prof. van der Veen has worked with Purdue Calumet Visualization Laboratory Director John (Jack) Moreland and the lab’s lead programmer, Jerry Dekker, to develop a virtual reality simulation of the Planck mission.
Community residents who come to the Visualization Laboratory for Thursday’s 8 a.m. open house will be able to view the 8:15 a.m. launch via a live video feed and then enjoy a unique opportunity to “accompany” the Planck satellite from launch through data gathering operations.
Thursday’s mission is a simultaneous launch of Planck and Herschel spacecrafts from the European Space Agency’s Guiana Space Centre in Kouru, French Guiana. Ultimately, the double launch will seek to answer questions about the universe’s origin by studying the cosmos from separate but similar perspectives. The European Space Agency is directing the missions with significant participation by NASA.
“Planck’s main objective is to map, with unprecedented detail, the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, the oldest light that we can detect coming to us from approximately 14 billion years ago,” van der Veen said. “The precision measurements expected by Planck will help answer outstanding questions on the origin and composition of the universe.”
Through a live video feed in the Visualization Laboratory, residents who come to campus Thursday will be able to view the launch and then the virtual reality simulation that follows.
“Jack and Jerry have created a most amazing and delightful simulation which we want to demonstrate to the public on launch day,” van der Veen said.
Following the demonstration, Prof. van der Veen will give a brief presentation at 9 a.m. about the Planck spacecraft and scientific objectives of the mission.
The Visualization Laboratory is on the first floor of the Powers Computer Education Building, located at the north end of campus and accessible from the 169th Street parking lot entrance.
For at least 15 months, the Planck mission will measure minute variations in the cosmic microwave background in an effort to assess age, size, mass, composition and geometry of the universe. Other information is available at http://planck.caltech.edu.
A model of the Planck spacecraft is on display at The Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana at the south end of campus through Thursday (5/15).