The NASA Perseverance rover, designed to look for signs of life on Mars, will land in a free update today (June 22) from the space race game "Mars Horizon," according to the game's development team.
Players on PCs and platforms from Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Switch will get a new mission with Perseverance and its flying drone-copter, Ingenuity, along with a reusable rocket, new game modes and various player experience improvements.
"Mars Horizon" allows you to design rockets and run missions from one of multiple worldwide space agencies as you compete — or collaborate, depending on your preferences — to land the first crewed mission on the Red Planet. The game includes a mix of space milestones and in-jokes from real-life space history, with fictional elements related to building a futuristic crewed mission on Mars.
The real-life Perseverance mission began on Feb. 18, several months after the November 2020 release of "Mars Horizon." Coincidentally, the real-life Percy is just beginning its science campaign on Mars this month, after several months of testing instruments and monitoring flights of its helicopter. The science operations will be fundamental to planning future Red Planet missions, such returning samples from Mars.
"You'll be able to find out all about the rover and helicopter," developer Auroch Digital wrote in a June 10 release about the forthcoming game update. "Alongside this there are new narrative events for the mission where important decisions will have to be made. And finally, there are new unique cinematics for these payloads — meaning you'll get to see the little helicopter making its way across its new home."
The reusable rocket featured in "Mars Horizon" won't be modeled on a real-life example such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, or the reusable rocket that carries Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital system that will attempt its first crewed flight on July 20.
Rather, "Mars Horizon" opted for a fictional rocket called Wyvern Upper; a wyvern is a winged dragon creature of mythology, but it's unclear from the press release if the name is meant to allude to SpaceX's Dragon series of crew and cargo spacecraft.
"This [rocket] is an awesome addition to the game because we've been able to demonstrate some of the new reusable vehicle tech which is moving into the mainstream in real life space exploration," Auroch Digital said. "If you do well enough to unlock the Wyvern Upper, you'll be able to reuse it, which will save you both time and money. Keep an eye out for the brand new cinematic for this, too; we're really proud of it."
A new "sandbox mode" will allow players to unlock all upgrades, experience guaranteed no-fail launches, and receive other perks to allow players to experiment with the in-game space technology, Auroch Digital stated. On the other hand, players really looking for a challenge can use an "Iron Core" mode that will not allow cheats, as it forces saves after every single turn — regardless of whether your spaceship or rocket blew up.
If you're a console player, there are other upgrades to look forward to on June 22. Consoles will get the Distant Operations Vehicle Pack that PC players received in April (including the Vega rocket, Akari satellite and Himawari satellite) along with the Early Observations Vehicle Pack from March (including the SPOT satellite mission and the Nippon 1 and Nippon 2 rockets.) Nintendo Switch players will also get a free demo, available soon on the store page.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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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