Discuss as:

Go on a space mission in 3-D

It turns out that Robonaut 2 -- along with the human members of the shuttle Discovery's crew -- will have to wait a few more weeks before going into orbit, due to today's postponement of Discovery's launch. But you can still go on a virtual adventure with Robonaut and NASA, thanks to the efforts of some enterprising 3-D photographers.

This adventure doesn't require high-tech 3-D TV monitors like the ones being talked about for the coming holiday season. All you need are the cheap red-blue glasses commonly associated with 1950s-era 3-D flicks. These glasses are widely available from novelty shops -- and I've been known to send out free some spectacles myself. (More about that later.)

The YouTube video above is one example of 3-D at the edge. Filipino director/cinematographer Paolo Dy captured the Robonaut demonstration during this week's NASA tweetup -- a gathering that brought together 150 Twitter-using space fans at Kennedy Space Center for a behind-the-scenes look at the space program.


The Robonaut may look fairly flat in this particular video, but it's amusing to see phone-wielding twitterers click away in 3-D as NASA shows off its humanoid robot.

Another clip from Dy shows tweeps dashing away from NASA's countdown clock in 3-D: 

Check out Dy's website for 3-D photography of tourist sites in Europe, plus the lobby of the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

Color/3-D hybrid imagery is tricky because you have to include just enough red and blue to fool the brain into seeing the 3-D effect, and enough of the other colors to make the scene come alive. But photographers have been able to do it, even with space scenes. One of the masters at this is Belgium's Patrick Vantuyne, who offers 3-D scenes of interplanetary landscapes and space hardware on his Tridi website. Here's an unusual sidelong perspective of an Atlantis launch (be sure to check out Vantuyne's full-size version):  

Patrick Vantuyne / Tridi.be

Liftoff of the shuttle Atlantis is captured in a stereo view created by Belgian 3-D whiz Patrick Vantuyne.

But the launch is just the beginning of a 3-D space journey. Vantuyne also provides views of the space shuttle as seen from the space station, the space station as seen from the shuttle, a 3-D view of the Hubble Space Telescope flying away from Discovery, an up-close-and-personal portrait of astronaut Joe Tanner during a 2006 spacewalk, and Discovery coming in for a landing.

"What you are seeing is real stereo/3-D and not some kind of software gimmick to produce a simple stereo effect," Vantuyne says of his space hardware gallery.

You don't have to end your 3-D mission with the shuttle. Here's a selection of other 3-D space sites, plus some of the earlier roundups I've written about:

On the Web:

From Cosmic Log:

As I mentioned, you'll need red-blue glasses to see these anaglyphs the way they're meant to be seen. If you can't find them at novelty or party stores, you can contact one of the mail-order vendors listed on this NASA webpage. I'm trying to do my part as well.

So far I've sent out more than 100 cardboard 3-D specs that have been provided free of charge by Microsoft Research's WorldWide Telescope team. (Why WorldWide Telescope? In part, it's because the astronomy software offers Mars imagery in 3-D. Also, Microsoft Research's headquarters is in my neighborhood. After all, Microsoft is a partner along with NBC Universal in the msnbc.com joint venture.)

I'll be sending out 25 more red-blue glasses to the first 25 people who left a comment on the "3-D ALERT" posting on the Cosmic Log Facebook page. Today's 3-D giveaway has ended, but keep a watch on the Facebook page for future 3-D ALERTS. And while you're on the page, please click on the "Like" button to join the Cosmic Log community. You can also follow me on Twitter (@b0yle). And if you really like me, please consider picking up a copy of my book about the planet search, "The Case for Pluto."