NASA putting humans on Mars (virtually)

NASA putting humans on Mars (virtually)

It will be at least a decade before a human steps foot on Mars, according to NASA, but the agency is giving people the opportunity to explore the Red Planet without leaving their own homes.

NASA is teaming up with Fusion Media, MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory and game developers to create a virtual reality game called "The Mars 2030 Experience." Thanks to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, the VR platform will work with Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear headsets and will eventually expand to Sony Playstation and HTC Vive.

The partnership is part of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and Fusion that allows the agency to develop partnerships with companies to gain access to technologies that are not a part of its core plans.

Players will be able to go through a series of mini-missions that include walking on the planet’s surface, surveying its habitat and driving the Mars Rover. Julian Reyes, the virtual reality producer for Fusion, said the project began last year when Fusion's game developers began experimenting with VR. 

“It's evolved, and we see it as something very exciting to use to tell stories in ways that have not been experienced before,” Reyes said in a statement announcing the project. “VR is uncharted territory, and it’s part of Fusion's DNA to tread through it.”

Erin Mahoney, a senior communications manager at NASA, is excited to bring space exploration to the masses.

“An important part of NASA’s Journey to Mars is the work we are doing to make space more accessible to individuals and non-governmental entities,” Mahoney said in the announcement.

NASA has been conducting VR research for more than a decade and has started to develop applications for its own scientists and astronauts that use a range of other VR products

The space agency expects to release additional VR experiences in the future and will announce more details at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, next month.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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