I, Voyager

I, Voyager in 2021

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I think we’re due for an update!

I’ve released two alpha builds since the start of the year. The Web Planetarium is shaping up nicely (try it!). And I feel pretty good about code architecture and how the simulator can support an “extension” game or educational project. I’ll talk about recent progress and my thoughts for future development.

First, I finally understand Godot GUI construction! Instead of attacking misbehaving Controls and Containers with lines of code, I now let them do what they want to do. Good lord! How can something so hard suddenly become so easy? So I discarded our previous Planetarium GUI (a code nightmare) and assembled this in maybe an hour:

OK, I said “assembled” in an hour. But that’s only recently possible due to our new modular GUI widgets. These are bits of GUI that know how to talk to the simulator, and can simply be dropped into Containers:

We have 27 of these widgets now, plus additional GUI “mods” that can make panels draggable, resizable with settings, and/or resizable with drag margins. Here’s another “example” GUI assembled for the Template Project:

The core code also is very modular and extensible. The fundamental object class that orbits (and can be orbited) is the Body, which can have an Orbit, a Model, and other components that set its behavior and appearance. You can extend any of these classes in the ProjectBuilder to have your custom class used in the simulator. Unfortunately, it’s rather terrible from a Godot Editor point of view. You can’t presently use the Godot Editor to build a planetary system. The reason is that I, Voyager builds the Sun, planets and moons entirely by code from data tables (and the ~65,000 asteroids from binaries generated from data tables). In the future, perhaps a developer will be able to build a planetary system either way: by data tables, or by assembling pre-built stars, planets, moons, and space ships in the Editor. In any case, this is a weakness of I, Voyager at the moment.

There are things that I don’t know how to do yet, especially regarding graphics. Item #1 on our issue tracker is our lack of shadows. Yeah, that’s pretty basic! But it’s stumped me so far, and it takes away from the view of Saturn in particular. Speaking of Saturn, we need a rings shader! I, Voyager would benefit from help in this area.

Our roadmap is here. A few of the things I hope to get to this year: 1) You’ll be able to select and visit explored asteroids. Some are already hiding unused in our assets. 2) We’ll have comets, at least as orbital points and traces. 3) And spacecrafts! I’d like to have some real spacecrafts on their real historical flight paths in our Planetarium. We’ll start with Voyager 1 & 2 (of course!), then maybe New Horizons, then — who knows? I think it would be cool to spin the clock back 20 years and find the Galileo spacecraft orbiting Jupiter.

My intension now is to keep the project in “alpha” stage until after Godot 4.0 release (perhaps this summer?). After we port to Godot 4.0, we should quickly go to beta and then official “1.0” release. Our API should be pretty stable by beta. (If I know there are developers depending on it, I will be more careful about API breakage even in alpha.)

If you are working on a project using I, Voyager, or are interested in doing so, please let me know!

Oh! And we recently got our trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office! So one can type I, Voyager® now without getting arrested (although it’s kind of ugly, and not required in most circumstances). I say “we” with the intention that I, Voyager will become both a collaborative effort and a nonprofit entity sometime down the road. More on the nonprofit here.

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I, Voyager is on Twitter & Facebook

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You can find us now on Twitter and Facebook! Our handle on both is @IVoygr. Well… I’ve been tweeting and facebooking for one week and we have 24 and 9 followers, respectively. Is that good? Heck if I know. It has not ruined my quality of life (yet) or done too much damage to my ego. I’ll keep at it. Speaking of which…

I need you to promote us!

I, Voyager needs users, testers and developers! Please help me grow the community. Follow us, like us, share us, retweet us, signal boost us, link to us, blog about us, signup for posts by email and forward them, tell your human flesh friends about us, write down ivoyager.dev on scraps of paper and pin them to coffee shop boards next to the restroom. Whatever medium is best for you. I, Voyager needs a community behind it to reach its potential!

I, Voyager screen capture of Jupiter and Io viewed from Europa.

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Introducing the Web Planetarium!

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After a month of work and much help from the Godot community, we now have a web-based planetarium! Follow the new PLANETARIUM link in our main menu or click here.

Why a month? To make a long story short, a bit of I, Voyager code that uses your graphics card to calculate asteroid positions (specifically, numerical approximation of the inverse Kepler Equation) was not agreeable with WebGL1, the JavaScript API that renders 3D graphics on your browser. Godot community member capmn was kind enough to point out the flaw (in our code!). Meanwhile, clayjohn used our misguided Godot bug report to identify an actual bug in Godot, the fix for which is already in the upcoming Godot 3.2 release. In any case, it’s remarkable that this is possible at all! I could never have done it without the Godot Engine and its superb community. I’ve posted screen captures below and more on the Planetarium page…

Earth from the Moon.

I, Voyager screen capture of the Moon with Earth.

Uranus tilted at its crazy 98° to the rest of the solar system. Its moons are an interesting cast of characters.

I, Voyager screen capture of Uranus and its interestingly named moons, orbiting at a crazy 98° to the rest of the solar system.

An abstract! It’s a wide-angle view of Jupiter’s moons and Main Belt & Trojan asteroids.

I, Voyager screen capture of asteroids and moons of Jupiter -- a wide-angle abstract.

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I, Voyager: an Open-Source Software Planetarium

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We are two weeks from launch!

I, Voyager is a free, open-source software planetarium designed for game and educational software development. It features the real, dynamic orbits of planets, moons and asteroids — with much more to come!

I built I, Voyager to be improved, modified and extended by the community. A big part of that is the open-source Godot Engine that runs it. I, Voyager uses Godot’s easy-to-learn GDScript (similar to Python) and can be extended using GDScript, C# or C++. Every line of code in I, Voyager and Godot is open for inspection and change. Godot provides the hard stuff (GUI elements, 3D renderer, etc.) and access to a friendly, knowledgeable and rapidly growing community.

I am releasing I, Voyager under the same permissive MIT License used by Godot permissive Apache Licence 2.0. What does that mean? Projects built with I, Voyager are owned by their creators. You can sell what you make. There are no royalties or fees, and license compliance is relatively simple.

History

My first program was a 2-body orbital system written in BASIC on a VIC-20. I’ve remade that program every ten years or so, each time with more detail and better tools. I didn’t particularly know what a “game engine” was two years ago, but I stumbled into Godot, downloaded it, started coding in late November, 2017 — by December I had TestCubes orbiting bigger TestCubes orbiting one really big TestCube. The rest is polish, — except for the name, which I struggled with for a long time. The starting point was this image. After more than a few working names I finally arrived at “I, Voyager.” It’s a play on Voyager 1 (the spacecraft that took that image) and in honor of the Voyager Program.

Images

I, Voyager screen capture of Europa, Jupiter and Io.
I, Voyager screen capture of Europa, Jupiter and Io.
I, Voyager screen capture of the orbital paths of the moons of Jupiter
Orbital paths of the moons of Jupiter.
I, Voyager screen capture of asteroids. Main Belt asteroids and Trojans (orbiting 60° ahead of and 60° behind Jupiter) are prominent in this image.
Jupiter (♃) is the shepherd of our Solar System. Shown here are some ~200,00 asteroids; the vast majority are in the Main Belt (the ring inside Jupiter’s orbit) but quite a few are in the two Trojan groups (the “lobes”) orbiting roughly 60° ahead of and 60° behind Jupiter.
I, Voyager screen capture with user interface, showing Earth, Selection Panel, Info Panel and Navigation Panel.
We have some basic interface to move around and see things, including Wikipedia text for the selected object. Developers can extend, replace or remove user interface elements.

Join the community!

Please join our dedicated I, Voyager Forum! You can find our newsletter signup on the main site and downloads here (on Nov 9!). For developers, our repository home will be at github.com/ivoyager.

Happy Voyaging!

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