High-tech 3-D map<br>of Grand Canyon created

WASHINGTON — The Grand Canyon has arrived at Explorers Hall in Washington, D.C. After walking in the museum entrance, simply look up.

The 52-foot-long 3-D model of the Grand Canyon hangs from the ceiling in Explorers Hall in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Landon Nordeman of Natioanl Geographic Society)

A state-of-the-art model for the National Geographic Society, the solid terrain model features the Grand Canyon in a large, full-color, 3-D scale format along with 15 other geographic sites and a hurricane on Earth and Mars.

The Grand Canyon model is 52 feet in length, more than six feet in width and hangs from a ceiling in the museum’s entrance where people can walk beneath and study it.

Solid Terrain Modeling created the models using digital satellite data and patent-pending technology. STM cut each model from high-density plastic foam and then, printed a satellite photograph of the site directly onto the model.

Various agencies and companies throughout the world, including NASA, supplied satellite elevation and imagery data for the models.

"We put a lot of faith in STM, and they really came through for us on these projects," said Allen Carroll, chief cartographer for National Geographic. "After we installed the models in the museum, we invited everyone who worked on them to a special showing. The people from NOAA, JPL, NASA and the other agencies and companies that supplied the data, had never seen anything like these models before. They were awestruck when they saw their data come to life in 3-D."

The models range in size from 5.5-feet by 4-feet to 52-feet by 6-feet. Besides Grand Canyon National Park, other models include the Alps, Byrd Glacier, Chesapeake Bay and the Appalachian Range, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Hurricane Floyd, Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount St. Helens (before and after the 1980 eruption), Oahu, Olympus Mons on Mars, Patagonia, San Francisco Bay, the Virunga Mountains, and Afghanistan.

"The museum’s large windows had always been draped to protect exhibits," said Susan Norton, director of the Explorers Hall. "When we remodeled last year, we had a chance to create a museum display to the outside. We decided to feature STM models and artifacts from around the world to invite visitors to take a closer look.

"The models are spectacular -- you can see them in the windows from two blocks away,’’ Norton added. "People are drawn to them and come up off the street to find out more about them."

Although most of the models are displayed in the museum windows, the model of Everest, 18 feet in elevation at its highest point, needed to be displayed flat. Then there’s the 52-foot-long model of the Canyon, which hangs from the ceiling.

STM also produced models of the north and south faces of the Columbia River Gorge. Decker Studios used these in Hollywood, Calif., to cast two 16-foot-long bronze models, which sit atop granite walls across from each other, and flank the walkway to the museum entrance.

"We were thrilled when the National Geographic Society chose our models for their beautiful museum," said Lawrence Faulkner, president of STM. "The models give museum visitors a view of the world that simply isn’t available through maps, virtual models or other solid models."

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