Oct 29, 2016 | By Tess

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington has been responsible for some of my favorite 3D scanning and printing projects, having made things like the iconic Apollo 11 shuttle, President Lincoln’s masks, and a T-Rex’s skeleton accessible to the larger public through the innovative technologies. Now, the expansive museum is going even bigger than before with its latest project to 3D scan the entire Space Shuttle Discovery, which is permanently on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The Space Shuttle Discovery, which flew its first mission in 1984, was in service for over 27 years and is recognized as having gone on more spaceflights than any other spacecraft to date. Now, thanks to the Smithsonian’s 3D scanning efforts, the public will get a better look at the renowned spacecraft, both inside and out.

The 3D scanning is being conducted by the Smithsonian Digital Team in Washington, who are painstakingly taking thousands of photos to digitally reconstruct a detailed and accurate 3D model of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The spacecraft itself measures 124 feet long and over 50 feet in height, making it the largest scale 3D scanning project to have been undertaken by the National Air and Space Museum. According to a member of the Smithsonian Digital Team, to capture the shuttle in its entirety will likely take between 5,000 and 10,000 50 megapixel images, which they will have to stitch together to make up the 3D model.

The impressive effort will not only capture the outside of the spacecraft, but will also reveal its interior, which has so far not been accessible to visiting guests of the museum. When the 3D scan is complete, the Smithsonian will make it available online, like they have with their other scans, helping to make the national treasure more accessible to people around the country, and even the world.

More specifically, users will be able to visualize the space shuttle in 3D online or in virtual reality, allowing them to see the intricate details of its travelled outer structure and its interior. Excitingly, having a 3D scan of the Space Shuttle Discovery also means that people will be able to 3D print miniature scale models of it, which is a) very cool, and b) a great learning tool. The whole process will ultimately make the national treasure available to the public in an unprecedented way.

“By picking up all the nuances of color and shape and texture they are going to bring this space shuttle to life,” commented Valerie Neal, who has been curator for the Air and Space Museum since 1989.

We can’t wait to see what small details and secrets are revealed about the massive Space Shuttle Discovery when the 3D scan is complete.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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