Google's Street View image collection just got its first true "out of this world" images with the addition of detailed photographs taken of retired spacecraft, launching facilities and other notable scenes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on the Florida coast.
Now visitors from almost anywhere on Earth can "see" and explore the facility through a collaboration with NASA that allowed Google's Street View equipment to capture 360 degree color images and place them online for a new generation of spaceflight fans.
"Introducing our largest Street View collection to date" teases a Google video that introduces the collection in an Aug. 2 post by product manager Ryan Falor on Google's Lat Long Blog. The new KSC images arrive to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of NASA's Launch Operations Center on July 1, 1962, which would later be renamed as the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
"For 50 years, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been the launch point for a generation of space technology and exploration," according to the blog post. "Countless enthusiasts (including this one) grew up longing to see a space shuttle up close and walk in the paths of astronauts. Today, a collaboration between NASA and Street View is enabling people around the world to take a trip to the doorway to outer space, and see Kennedy as it transitions into a multipurpose launch complex for the next 50 years of space innovation. This location is our largest special collection of Street View imagery to date, totaling 6,000 panoramic views of the facilities, and expanding our mission to document the worlds most amazing places."
The panoramic images are breathtaking, from the Apollo 14 command module capsule that returned three astronauts from America's fourth mission to the moon in February 1971, to the Space Shuttle Atlantis which flew on its maiden voyage in October 1985. Also included are
Iconic images of Launch Pad 39A, which was used for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, and of the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where a real Saturn V engine and the spacesuit worn by Astronaut Alan Shepard on Apollo 14 are on display, are also featured.
Virtual visitors can browse the collection by clicking on the images and then "steering" through the exhibits using a control wheel on the top left of each image. Using the controls, visitors can roam around the KSC displays to learn more about its contents and history.
Also included are images of the famous Vehicle Assembly Building, where you can see the facility where tall spacecraft were assembled prior to missions before being slowly transported to launch pads around the KSC, and images of Launch Firing Room 4, which was used for Space Shuttle missions.
The new KSC images are the latest in the Google Street View collection, which also includes panoramic views of notable places around the globe, including Historic Italy, California National Parks, and highlights of must-see sites in the United States, Poland, Israel, Russia and the magnificent Swiss Alps.
Googles Street View program has been a source of controversy since it first started more than five years ago. As part of the program, Google cars have been sent around the world to take photographs in order to create street-level views of communities, which then can be accessed by Google users.
In July, Google again drew the ire of British officials over its Street View program, this time after admitting that it had not deleted all the personal information collected by the cars in England and other countries, as required under a 2010 agreement.