'Space Explorers' receives Emmy for 360-degree virtual reality space station experience

A virtual reality-themed International Space Station series just got an Emmy.

"Space Explorers: The ISS Experience" garnered creators Felix & Paul Studios, in association with Time Studios, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Interactive Program. The four-part series aired in 2020 including exclusive footage of eight astronauts working aboard the orbiting complex.

The series was shot over two years with specially designed cameras. The result was a series of "scenes" with a central focus point, where the action was set. Audience members with virtual reality headsets, however, could swivel their view to look around even as the story was happening.

Related: International Space Station facts, history & tracking

"I was completely blown away by how I felt like I was back in space, and since I got back [to Earth] in the middle of April this year, I've been yearning and missing that feeling, so it was incredible," said NASA astronaut Jessica Meir previously said of the experience. "I didn't want to take it off. I wanted to just still stay there, floating in the Cupola and looking out the window and remembering what it looks like."

This is the third win of the prestigious television award for the studio, following "The People's House: Inside The White House With Barack and Michelle Obama" and "Inside the Box of Kurios."

"We use this medium to take people to places they cannot go," Félix Lajeunesse, co-founder and creative director of Felix & Paul Studios, told collectSPACE.com in an interview. "For us, that doesn't necessarily mean creating a fully interactive experience where we ask audiences to press buttons and do other such things as in a game. We remain on the side of a cinematic experience, where what we really try to do is nurture a sense of presence for our audiences."

The show received the Emmy at the 73rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, which were held in Los Angeles, on Sept. 11 and 12 and announced Sunday (Sept. 19) during the primetime Emmy ceremonies. 

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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