'Mars Horizon 2' lets players search for Red Planet life with real science

A Mars game coming to PC in 2024 will get a big boost from a planetary scientist.

Konstantin Batygin, who is best known for his search for the mysterious Planet Nine that may be far out in the solar system, will join the team behind "Mars Horizon 2," an upcoming game that has players search for fictional Red Planet life.

Batygin, a California Institute of Technology planetary scientist, has pledged to help the gaming team with Mars mission design and fact-checking the research, developer Auroch Digital and publisher Secret Mode wrote in a release.

"His invaluable knowledge and expertise will ensure that 'Mars Horizon 2' is as authentic as possible, accurately portraying space exploration and extrapolation beyond present day as the search for life in the universe continues," the statement added. For his own part, Batygin retweeted the announcement Thursday (May 11) from the official Mars Horizon 2 Twitter account.

Related: Hunt for alien biosignatures in 'Mars Horizon 2: The Search for Life' on PC

Mars Horizon | $19.99 $6.60 from Green Man Gaming
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Mars Horizon | $19.99 $6.60 from Green Man Gaming
Save 67%
on Mars Horizon, which lets you race to the Red Planet while developing your Mission Control. Play with real-life rocket hardware from NASA, the European Space Agency or other space groups around the world.

Mars Horizon 2, shown here in pre-release and early footage, will have space gamers explore the Red Planet for life. (Image credit: Auroch Digital and Secret Mode)

Mars Horizon 2 is the successor to the "space race"-like Mars Horizon, which released in 2020. The original game allowed players to design virtual rocket programs based on real-life space hardware from NASA, the European Space Agency and other worldwide space groups.

Of the successor game, the developers wrote on March 7, players will "race to make discoveries ahead of rival agencies, using established scientific methodology in tandem with modern and near-future technologies to seek, recover, and analyze alien biosignatures."

Both Mars Horizon games are somewhat similar to the popular Kerbal Space Program (KSP) series; KSP 2 released on Feb. 24 and is still delivering early access updates for players. Kerbal also has players managing space programs, but focuses a little more on real-life physics. The Mars Horizon games hone in on Mission Control elements like managing staff, building facilities or making difficult decisions when missions face issues in space.

Real-life space agencies also have numerous Mars missions on the go in the quest to find ancient life on its surface. For example, NASA and the European Space Agency are engaging in a sample return campaign aiming to bring Red Planet rocks to Earth as soon as 2033.

The Perseverance rover has already collected and stored 10 twin samples of material, one set on the surface of the Red Planet and one inside its belly. The mission design, still being reviewed, for now suggests that Perseverance may deliver the samples to a spacecraft that will relay the material back to our planet. If the rover is disabled, two fresh fetch helicopters would do the planetary deliveries themselves.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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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 Space.com 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: https://qoto.org/@howellspace