In a strange twist of time and space, what was once the future to generations of Americans is now officially the past.
Archeologists from USF are studying and documenting parts of Cape Canaveral where America's first storied journeys into space were launched. But the team is using technology the first astronauts never dreamed of.
"I'm able to digitally document things rather than document them by digging up dirt," explained Dr. Lori Collins, co-director of USF's Alliance For Integrated Spacial Technologies (AIST).
Using new laser scanners and digital photography, researchers are creating amazing, detailed 3-D images of the launch complexes used for historic missions like John Glenn's Friendship 7, which made him the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962.
They can also create miniaturized, exact 3-D models of the facilities that will likely be used by museums in the future.
"The buildings have a very important place in American History," said Bart McLeod, an AIST research assistant whose first memories of the space program were of the shuttle. "I feel very fortunate to be able to digitally document these buildings."
Ironically, the launch buildings that were constructed to withstand the massive power of rocket engines are falling victim to salt air from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
"These massive structures of concrete and really heavy steel are literally just eroding away," said Dr. Travis Doering, co-director of AIST.
The USF team is working with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to intricately document the facilities before they disintegrate. USF received a $90,000 federal grant for the work.
Collins says digital archeology can record greater detail than traditional archeology at a fraction of the cost.
To see the digital archeology visit: http://aist.usf.edu/projects/capecanaveral.aspx