Using virtual reality, you could explore the surface of Mars from the safety of planet Earth.
The Mars Society, a space advocacy group supporting the human exploration of Mars, has partnered with virtual reality (VR) companies to launch a crowdfunding campaign for MarsVR, a project that aims to create a VR simulation of what it would be like to experience the surface of the Red Planet. The campaign, which aims to raise a minimum $100,000 for the project over the next six weeks, is being held on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo; you can find details here.
"What we hope to demonstrate in our VR program is a new way of exploring Mars, one which could bring millions of people into the game, in terms of participating directly in the exploration of the Red Planet," Mars Society representatives wrote in an emailed statement.
According to the Mars Society, they aim for MarsVR to be used by the "public and future space explorers," for "both public outreach within STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] programs in schools and museums and to train analog astronauts at the Mars Society's real-life Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) located in the Utah desert."
MDRS is an analog research facility; at these types of facilities, analog astronauts take part in simulated space missions, living, working and researching as if they are on Mars (or, at some facilities, the moon). By using this virtual reality experience within a simulated Mars mission, researchers would be able to have an even closer experience to being on the surface of our neighboring planet.
As part of the Mars Society's crowdfunding campaign, the organization is offering the general public the ability to spend time at MDRS by contributing to the project, only the second time that the public has been able to access the facility. The price tag for time spent at MDRS with this campaign is steep, starting at $2,500 for a single-day experience and increasing to $5,000 for a 3 day, 2-night stay as a crew member.
Now, while the MarsVR experience is designed for STEM outreach and research opportunities and isn't explicitly aimed for gaming or other at-home use, if the Mars Society is successful in raising these funds, it plans to release the application as a free download on the digital video game distribution platform Steam.
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