Wonder and Mystery: Where’s the Rocket?!

For the last three months, the Moonshot team has been exploring every kind of virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences we can wrap around our heads (#vrdorkface). We’ve collected and curated our favorite examples into an exhibit called “What is Here?” It’s an exploration both of the technologies that are literally reshaping reality but just as importantly of the experience of feeling elsewhere.

One of our consensus favorites is Google Earth VR because it evokes this idea and feeling of elsewhere so directly. For me personally, it’s been the experience that has invoked an almost sacred sense of wonder. As I’ve revisited sites I’ve been to in earlier parts of my life, or sites I know I’ll never get to visit, even though the visuals sometimes feel like a one-version-out-of-date console game, I’m amazed at how real these places feel at a visceral level.

But there is one part of Google Earth VR that feels COMPLETELY WRONG! As I was flying around Kansas City, I noticed that the historic and iconic Moonliner rocket was not on the Barkley roof.

The Moonliner Rocket is missing from the Barkley roof in Google Earth VR

The Barkley building is present and properly elevated (as are all the buildings in virtual KC). The air conditioners on the rooftop are there and to scale. The rocket is much larger than they are, so there’s no reason it would be missed. The rooftop deck is there. The rooftop garden is in bloom. Even the rocket’s stand is there, but the rocket itself is just gone!

For comparison, here’s a recent nighttime shot of the real Kansas City skyline with the Barkley building in the foreground. Notice the obvious presence of the rocket.

Nighttime Kansas City skyline with the Moonliner Rocket on the Barkley building

Now, it’s not as though the rocket just wasn’t modeled in Google Earth VR. It’s also invisible from above. The rooftop has been made to look as though the rocket was never there. It’s been “photoshopped” out.

And the rocket has been sitting there since 2008, when Barkley moved into the building. The presence of the rooftop deck and the garden indicate that the rocket should be there, since they were added at the same time.

I assume this is some kind of automated process, rather than a manual deletion. Possibly there’s a Homeland Security technology to automatically delete all “missile looking objects” from satellite photos? Maybe they’re purged before Google gets them?

We’ve reached out to Google Earth, Google VR, Google Fiber and even Mayor Sly James for an explanation or helping getting our rocket restored. So far, no response. But we’ll keep on digging, cuz we know our rocket is out there somewhere!

#whereistherocket #restoretherocket #therocketisoutthere