A team of researchers from the Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies at USF work to digitally document historic launch sites at Cape Canaveral.
Video by Katy Hennig | USF News
TAMPA, Fla. (March 3, 2014) - Using 3D laser scanning
technology, a team of researchers from the Alliance for Integrated Spatial
Technologies (AIST) at the University of South Florida, is focusing their
cutting edge instruments on Cape Canaveral to document and preserve space
history in Florida.
“This is where John Glenn took off into the first manned
orbital mission for the United States,” said AIST director and project leader
Travis Doering. “This launch pad hasn’t been used in decades. So we have come out
to preserve it virtually and to be able to save it for future generations so
they can see what it looks like today.”
The AIST team is working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
scanning six locations to develop a digital documentation and virtual tour of Cape Canaveral. One of the most famous locations, launch complex 14, is where the
Mercury Mission launched in 1962, making John Glenn the first American to orbit
The launch pad is more than 50 years old and like all of the
structures lining the Cape, it’s been weathered and degraded by the salt air
from the Atlantic Ocean, less than 200 yards away. The degradation is a
significant factor in the conservation and preservation efforts.
Co-directors of AIST, Lori Collins and Travis Doering.
“The equipment that we are using can capture everything that
is visible, anything that you can see to accuracy to two millimeters or less,”
The team is scanning the site with extreme detail, to
digitally conserve and preserve the historic landmarks. AIST director Lori Collins describes the
multifaceted scans as a way for all of us to learn about space history.
“Also, to help the present with understanding them better.
When you look at these sites you really can’t appreciate what they are, you see
them from one perspective,” said Collins. “We’re able through these
technologies see whole areas, wide areas, understand things in different ways and
certainly present them digitally to the public in different ways.”
The AIST scanning project includes interiors and exteriors
of six of the most significant structures that remain at Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, including buildings that exist no where else in the world today.
Archaeologist Tom Penders is the cultural resources manager for Patrick Air Force Base at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and says the
scanning project at the Cape will change the way we view the site.
“It’s not just important for Florida history; it’s for our
nations history as well. I mean, we put people into space,” said Penders. “The
entire space program started here in Florida. We have a space program because
of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center.”
Many of the architectural aspects of the buildings are unique to Cape Canaveral. Several of the scan sites are blockhouses, built in the 1960’s to be able to withstand the force of the rocket and missile launches and had periscopes sticking out of the top to view the lift-off. They too only exist at the Cape and will be digitally scanned and preserved
“This structure behind me actually was associated with the
minuteman missile complex activities that went on out here at Cape Canaveral,”
said Collins. “So we’re documenting these in an effort to preserve them for the
The AIST team captures the data using 3D laser scanning,
photographic modeling, geographic information, global positioning systems (GPS),
augmented reality and 3D printing to preserve imperiled artifacts and
landscapes. Using software programs the teams builds all of the data together, creating
a digital learning and teaching tool.
Collins and the AIST team bring the data back to USF and students
can explore the sites through the technology.
“We’re also bringing this same data back to the classroom
and we are able to virtually bring students out with us on a project and we can use this as a way to learn and explore Florida history and our nations
Katy Hennig can be reached at 813-974-6994