Travel to Mars (Virtually) with Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin

If you ever wanted to travel with a moonwalker to a Mars colony, you'll soon have the chance to do so in virtual reality — for free.

Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 astronaut who was the second person to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong, is narrating a virtual reality project created by Life VR, Time and the tech company 8i. 

The project is called "Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars." Viewers using at-home virtual reality headsets will be able to follow a 3D hologram of Aldrin as he travels from the Sea of Tranquility on the moon, where he landed nearly 50 years ago, to the possible site of a future Mars colony.

The experience was released March 17 on Steam and Viveport for HTC Live, and came shortly after to the Oculus Rift. A 360-degree trailer is available on Apple's App Store and on Google Play.

"I was honored to be a member of the first crew to set foot on the moon in 1969, but I want to be remembered for more," said Aldrin in a promotional video for the project on YouTube. "I want my legacy to include laying the groundwork for a permanent human settlement on Mars."

In 2015, Aldrin worked with students at Purdue University in Indiana to create an architecture for Mars missions. Their work calls for gaining experience with inflatable modules in low Earth orbit and tests at crewed lunar stations, then sending missions to the Martian moon Phobos. Two "cycler" spacecraft would carry astronauts between Earth and Phobos, where crews would construct a lander to explore the Martian surface.

Aldrin has been an advocate of human Mars exploration for decades. He wrote the 2013 book "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration" (National Geographic). Two years later, he told the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness that a permanent presence on Mars was the best way to demonstrate American leadership.

Aldrin has a long-standing relationship with the gaming industry, too, dating at least as far back as 1993. The game "Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space" invited players to race to the moon either as NASA or the Soviet Union. This game was later remade into "Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager," which is now available on Steam.

In 2016, Aldrin was featured in "Destination: Mars," a virtual reality experience at the Kennedy Space Center visitor's center near Orlando, Florida.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: