Exploring the surface of Mars at least 15 years before a human being in flesh and blood will be able to, this is the new ambitious idea of the people at NASA. To make this happen they teamed up with MIT in Boston and the media company Fusion to develop a VR application that allows the viewer to experience life on the Red Planet.
The project is based on real NASA data and research and it consists of a series of realistic missions assigned to the user, both within a Mars habitat and on the planet’s surface.
The application, called Mars 2030 Experience, will be compatible with Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard and it will be available within this summer, after the official launch planned to coincide with South By Southwest, music and film festival to be held in Houston in March.
NASA believes that virtual reality is the perfect technology to simulate space exploration, so they instructed the Space Systems Laboratory at MIT and experts Media Fusion to create an interactive application that uses video and audio based on images and data collected by space missions of the recent years. Users can move on the planet by completing a series of small missions, which will be as similar as possible to the tasks real astronauts will (most probably) face in 2030 when they will land on the Martian surface.
"The impetus for the project was to try to create as close an experience [as possible] to what it’s going to be like for the first explorers to Mars" said Fusion senior vice president and chief digital officer Daniel Eilemberg. "For us, it was always very important that if we’re going to do this and take advantage of virtual reality, we try and stay as close to scientific reality as we could".
Many analysts believe 2016 will be the year of virtual reality. The most important high-tech companies are working on vision systems and virtual reality: Samsung with Gear VR, Google with Cardboard (waiting for Magic Leap), Facebook (with Oculus Rift), HTC (with lives), Sony (Playstation VR) and Microsoft (Hololens). It is still too early to tell if they can change the way we access the information and entertainment, but some things are already moving in terms of content and the experience of Mars could be a spectacular first step.