We’ve probably all dreamed about being an astronaut at least one point in our lives.
I know I have.
Working on the International Space Station
Now imagine being an astronaut working on the International Space Station (ISS). You have family and friends back home who will never get to experience what you see each day. You live and work in a 356 foot spacecraft 227 nautical miles above Earth. You watch the planet pass by as you orbit every 90 minutes, seeing 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. You don a spacesuit to leave the safety of the ISS. Now it’s just you and the vacuum of space. A tether is keeping you from floating away. On one side, Earth is no longer seen from a window. On the other, the pitch black of the universe.
An astronaut can tell stories and take picture of what their eyes witness. But how can they truly convey what it’s really like on the ISS?
Say hello to The Infinite, an awe-inspiring virtual reality journey aboard the ISS and perhaps one of the closest things to experiencing life as an astronaut without actually being in space.
I was invited to experience The Infinite at the Tacoma Armory and I cannot begin to describe what it felt like with words alone.
Upon walking into the Armory, I had a slight sense like I was at an amusement park, getting ready to board a roller coaster. With sleek, high walls and a bright light beckoning me to enter, I followed a lit path into a room reminiscent of Star Trek. A voice overhead speaks as colorful light dances around. The doors opened into the main room and I was greeted by staff who had me choose my virtual reality headset (which are UV sanitized between each use). They carefully explained how to wear and adjust the headset and what to expect for the duration of the simulation.
My boyfriend and I would see each other and everyone else as avatars in the virtual space. I would see him with a golden orb at his heart, staff would be seen with green orbs and other visitors would be seen with blue orbs. This ensured no one would run into each other and we could find those who were in our own party.
Now it’s time to board the International Space Station.
The Virtual Experience
As you “walk” into the space station, there are luminous spheres throughout. Touching each one brings you a new visual story. Witness an astronaut writing in her diary and observing our planet through a window. Watch an astronaut conducting science experiments. Find yourself outside the Space Station, floating peacefully with the Earth below you.
The 3D effects bring home just how large the Space Station actually is, with it’s 356 foot solar array wingspan (an Airbus 380’s wingspan is only 262 feet long). Observing it from the outside, you’ll see how many different countries were a part of its construction. See how many different private entities contribute to all of it’s working parts. What human ingenuity can create is just astonishing.
With the world in constant turmoil and war, staring at this majestic spacecraft floating quietly above our planet, I felt a peaceful sense of unity and community. The entire experience is a visual and emotional feast for all of your senses. You will not want it to end.
Don’t worry, even after removing your headset, more awaits. Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda created incredible multimedia installations that made me feel like I was traveling through the space-time continuum wormhole via some of my favorite movies, like Stargate and Contact.
An Experience for the Whole Family
If you are a space buff, a former astronaut, or even if you aren’t really into anything above the Earth’s atmosphere – I highly recommend visiting The Infinite. Bring your friends and the whole family with you. No one will have the exact same experience and you’ll want to go back again just to relive what it felt like to float in space and see what hidden treasures you missed the first time around.
The Infinite is at the Tacoma Armory now through September 2022.