SHUTTLE MISSION 29
November 29, 2020 – 2:05am, Pad 39D
In light of the Space Shuttle Program’s return to flight in 2005, I established the fictitious National Aerospace System or NAS (pronounced N-A-S). This was to be a routine set of launches of this two-foot-tall model rocket I designed, but upon learning how to use 3D modeling software, I conquered what I thought was impossible for me back then: using a computer program to animate my own controlled Space Shuttle launches.
Launching a model rocket has way too many downsides; for example, it’s best to launch with a club. But I wouldn’t have had the freedom I needed because not only were these going to be hobby launches, they were to be film and production exercises as well. Launch space was limited in Baton Rouge, and the dangers outweighed the benefits. Also, there are a lot of physics, calculations and predictions in the sport of rocketry, and launching a delicate, two-foot-tall model for a rather slow liftoff and a low apogee would have been physical impossibility and an engineering disaster. As a result, the project was shelved for good in 2010.
The original build from 2005.
The revamp from 2006.
In October of 2012, I came across NASA’s collection of public-domain space models. The package contains highly detailed textures and bump maps, but being a devout follower of the Shuttle program, I made many necessary modifications for the sake of accuracy, while swapping out “NASA” markings for my “NAS” logo. Other details such as sandings, tan lines and color changes on the foam of the external tank (ET) were also taken into account, as well as the coloring of the insulation on the Shuttles’ main engines (SSME).
There were many issues with the scaling of the model—the Shuttle stack being too large for the launch platform, and the launch platform being to large for the launch pad. After one week and many hours of revisions, I finally placed my nearly 50 cameras to their mostly true-to-life locations, adding models of the pads’ Operational Television cameras (OTVs) as placeholders to the launch complex for even more detail. Venting fuels, the Sound Suppression Water System (used to dampen the sound of liftoff), and the endless litany of smoke and fire were created through an evolution of particle layers in After Effects, stock overlays, and footage of SSME tests. Audio was also sourced through NASA footage on YouTube.
NAS Shuttle Launch Test #1 (2012)
NAS Shuttle Launch Test #2 (2012)
The Shuttle crews were named after newspeople, TV cast members, classmates, coworkers and family. I designed crew photos for the first 17 missions using re-worked astronaut models from the NASA site above, customizing and rigging them as needed.
For nine years, I got to revive—for what it’s worth—the magic of the launch countdown, the culmination of a dream that began in Mrs. Lightfoot’s 4th grade class as I watched John Glenn return to space in 1998. But after 30 planned missions, one abort, two tests and more than 100,000 views on YouTube, I decided to end the NAS Space Shuttle series and move on to other ventures.
I end this page with the utmost thanks to user ZacharyS41 on YouTube, and many others across the internet and around the world who have made the project worthwhile. With love, godspeed.