Under the Virtual Ice
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The search for life on other worlds starts here. The NASA-funded SIMPLE (Sub-ice Investigation of Marine and Planetary-analog Ecosystems) project takes one of the first steps in preparing to search for life under the icy surface of Europa by exploring the waters under the ice-covered lakes of Antarctica. Using multiple virtual reality devices at UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), my research allows a multi-disciplinary team from UIC, Stone Aerospace, Georgia Tech, Louisiana State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, San Jose State, University of Texas at Austin, and Montana State University to virtually recreate an autonomous underwater vehicle√≠s (AUV) mission based on data collected from numerous sensors during an expedition to the McMurdo ice shelf. The visualization application in the image depicts the underwater ice sheet as cubes derived from sonar scans collected from the AUV. Using EVL's wand controller, researchers can swim through the virtual lake-bed at real-life scale, follow the yellow path of the AUV, and view salinity, pressure, conductivity, and oxygen concentrations. This image was created by Lance Long using multiple in-camera exposures of the subject wearing the head-mounted display in front of the visualization on a tiled display wall and just the display wall.