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Real-Life Version of the Atari Classic Lunar Lander

posted Nov 1, 2009, 2:45 AM by Troy Cheek
After hearing about preparations for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing at Kennedy Space Center last year, British engineer Iain Sharp decided to develop a tribute of his own. His offering, a remake of the 1979 Atari game Lunar Lander, in which players try to settle a module onto the moon’s surface, is a complex mix of scrapped PCs, fishing line, inkjet printer motors and miniature space vehicles.

To enhance the retro look, Sharp suspended the lander from a moving carriage with the fishing line. As the line unspools and the lander descends, the player turns a modified car steering wheel to rotate the module and then hits a button to fire the “rockets” and push the craft in the direction it’s pointing. The line spools up, and printer motors shift the carriage along a track, carrying the lander across the moonscape.

Sharp tested magnets as a means of measuring successful touchdowns but found that they pulled the lander right to the target, making the game too easy. Instead he installed touch sensors to measure when the craft hit the ground and wrote software that estimates its exact position based on how far the motors moved in the course of the game. Still, the game, which is installed at the Southwold Pier in Suffolk, England, doesn’t demand perfection from its players. “You can get away with a few little mistakes,” Sharp says, “which is kind of like the real thing.”

Read the entire article You Built What?! A Real-Life Version of the Atari Classic Lunar Lander at Popsci.
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