AFRL opens state-of-the-art digital Space Legacy Portal exhibit
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, NEW MEXICO (AFRL) – With a video of the historic 1969 Apollo 11 launch shown on the nearly two-story screen behind him, Dr. Darren Raspa, the Air Force Research Laboratory Phillips Research Site historian, welcomed guests and colleagues to the grand opening of the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Legacy Portal Mission Control exhibit, in a ceremony held November 15 at Kirtland AFB.
“This project began more than three years ago as an idea to use the dim and underutilized atrium area in the lobby of the directorate’s headquarters building as a visualization and scintillation space where our scientists and engineers could gather to discuss and show off their work,” Raspa said. “Viewing that monumental launch of U.S. astronauts to the moon is just a taste of the potential this exhibit holds.”
In the summer of 2018, Raspa and the site’s senior facility engineer, Bradley Rieck, met with Col. Eric Felt, the director of the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, to outline their vision for a digital interactive exhibit that would bring the AFRL Phillips Research Site space history to life.
Leading up this meeting, Raspa visited the museum directors at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., the Central Intelligence Agency’s museum at Langley, Virginia and the Sandia Laboratories National Security Technology Gallery Museum located on Kirtland AFB, to learn the latest in historical exhibit design and technology.
“While at the Smithsonian, I noticed a phenomenal interactive exhibit at the Air & Space Museum on the Space Shuttle and saw that the designers were a group called Ideum from Corrales, New Mexico, a stone’s throw from Kirtland in the north valley,” said Raspa.
“Following discussion with Col. Felt, I was convinced that Ideum could create an exciting space exhibit portal for AFRL.”
The contract to build the exhibit was managed through AFRL’s Tech Transfer Collaborative Office, under the Lab’s Partnership Intermediary Agreement with New Mexico Tech.
Dr. Hugh McDonald, executive producer at Ideum, in speaking to those gathered, complimented AFRL on its history in space and the benefits the project will offer the Lab.
“Ideum has designed this exhibit to be what you want it to be in telling the history of space research and development at the Space Vehicles Directorate,” he said. “It has been our great pleasure to work with Dr. Raspa and the AFRL team in creating a forum to display the revolutionary work AFRL has done and will continue to do for our nation.”
The multi-touch display will let visitors monitor and explore the lab’s collection of Space Vehicles information and visual assets in a “real-time observer” manner.
“The Legacy Portal exhibit is modeled on a “futuristic user interface” style—an idealized interface design style known for displaying wildly dense arrays of data points in artfully designed, frequently mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic motion graphics,” Raspa said. “The core of the experience is the interactivity between the large projection screen and the 65 inch Ideum multi-touch table, that form the centerpieces of the atrium space.”
Raspa further explained that the portal will not only be a “history channel” for the directorate’s space programs that allows for updates and edits, but it will be also be an inspiration to the AFRL workforce.
Felt described the opportunities the exhibit will offer in understanding the past to help AFRL solve the challenges in space going forward.
“I am thrilled to be here today for the opening of our Legacy Portal,” said Felt. “It’s all about the past, present and future and a chance to highlight our history.”
“This exciting exhibit will allow us to see how we got to where we are, and what we can and should do going forward,” he continued. “It is a place for the present where we can bring visitors and where we can learn and appreciate our important contributions to the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. It’s a place for the future and how we can continue our space legacy and be an inspiration to those who come after us.”