The Story of Spaceship Earth
In the spring of 2005, I was co-creating an astronomy workshop for elementary school teachers. The creators consisted of myself, a fellow engineer from Boeing, and a fifth grade science teacher.
The teacher had some great ideas about the workshop. One of the things she suggested was to give the teachers attending the workshop a sheet of pictures they could cut-out to make pins for their students.
The image she suggested was Spaceship Earth. She showed me a simple sketch her husband had made on a sticky note. It was an image of the earth with a rocket engine and a nose cone.
I had just completed a course in 3ds max, so I welcomed the challenge of making this dream a reality. 3ds max is a 3D modeling and animation program that enables artists to create realistic looking three dimensional models, apply colors, textures, and lighting to create images and animations.
Since this was going to be for an astronomy class, I wanted to be as accurate as possible. I used NASA satellite images of the land, oceans, and clouds. The Earth is at the correct tilt and the Moon, although not at scale distance from Earth, is on an orbit with the correct inclination.
The image was then made to look like a coloring book picture by using 3ds max's 'Ink 'n Paint' texture.
This is the final version given to teachers. It was for kids in grades 3 through 5, so I simplified things to be suitable for coloring.
The term Spaceship Earth was popularized by Buckminster Fuller in his 1963 book, Operating manual for Spaceship Earth.
Spaceship Earth has flown in space
A 4x6 print of the original digital artwork shown above spent seven months in space orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station. During its 215 days in space, Spaceship Earth made 3401 orbits and traveled over 85 million miles.