You’re never too young to start training for a mission into deep space, at least if you’re the sons of DIY expert Jeff Highsmith.
Mr Highsmith has recently created two space simulators for his sons that offer a high degree of functionality and features such as radio, orbital tracking and even a remotely controlled robotic arm.
Mr Highsmith began his space simulation project when his son needed a desk for homework. Instead of simply creating a basic table, he opted to make a mission control simulator similar to what’s seen at the NASA centre in Houston (albeit slightly more basic).
The table folds out to reveal a board of switches, a map of the world with magnetic orbital tracking and even a screen for video. A number of LEDs, sound effects and other small touches help to make the tiny simulator immersive for the controllers.
“I researched the Apollo Program as well as NASA’s Mission Control Center, and designed my own console roughly based on those,” Mr Highsmith explained.
Climbing into the rocket
He didn’t stop at mission control, however, and soon went on to create a miniature spaceship for his younger son to play in.
“When I was building the Mission Control Desk for my older son’s room, it became clear that we would also need a spaceship to go with it.”
The Apollo-styled craft includes an external robotic control arm, model reaction control system ports and a seating position similar to that of the real Apollo modules.
Inside, a bass shaker creates vibrations to simulate launch and a radio link allows the pilot to talk to the mission controller in another room. A video feed also allows control of the robotic arm.
These creations are a prime example of simulation at its core, as the underlying functions and experiences are comparable to those created by NASA and other space agencies.
“I designed the spacecraft and Mission Control Desk to provide open-ended play […] Rather than limit them to what I can think up in terms of play, I want to give them room to think up things themselves,” Mr Highsmith explained.