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VR, NASA, and Mars – Virtual Walks in Space

Wishing you could visit Mars?

virtual reality abstract photo

On a visit to my son, I got to fly to, and walk on, the moon. It was so fun to be “there” that I went home and checked my computer’s compatibility with VR technology. Luckily for my writing time, my computer failed the test. But I’m not the only one loving a VR walk on a distant planet.

Scientists regularly walk on Mars, virtually that is, using a mixed-reality software that won NASA’s 2018 Software of the Year Award. Users roam the same red dunes as the Curiosity rover in OnSight’s immersive 3D terrain. Microsoft and JPL’s Ops Lab collaborated on the software to take scientists as close as they can get to actual geology field work on Mars, without flying there. Additionally, through avatars, the science team can meet up on Mars —walking, pointing, and engaging collaboratively. And, it will all be modified in the future for the Mars 2020 rover.

But’s it not just for scientists, we can all take a stroll with Curiosity through the exotic Martian desert by way of this visceral experience. Access Mars merged technology that use to be NASA-exclusive, data from Curiosity, and WebVR into a free, immersive, off-world adventure for anyone with Wifi. 

The panoramic Martian landscape isn’t just wondrous space art, it’s real images Curiosity transmitted to Earth as it rolled across the rocky red planet.

On your visit to Mars, explore your choice of:

1.  Gale Crater — Curiosity’s landing site

2.  Marias Pass

3.  Murray Buttes

4.  Pahrump Hills

Zoom into the mud cracks and rock outcrops of the first three extraterrestrial landmarks as Katie Stack Morgan—JPL scientist on the MSL mission, enlightens you about the signs of habitability Curiosity has brought to life like the ancient striated lake that might have been inhabited by microbial creatures. Plus, as Curiosity’s progress on 18,000-foot-high Mt. Sharp is updated you can wander even further across the red surface.

Experience Access Mars here:

With a fusion of machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality interfaces, Lockheed Martin’s added a bit more self-reliance to manned space exploration missions at distances that would take mission control 40 plus minutes to reply to.

Known as MAIA—Model-based Artificial Intelligent Assistant—a complete digital depiction of a spacecraft or surface installation with real-time machine learning algorithms that also peer ahead, perceiving what might happen under various conditions, and interfaces including augmented reality and virtual reality gear that offers repair and maintenance instructions or enables crew members to explore different parts of a spacecraft without having to actually visit them.

Lockheed wants to apply the system to NASA’s Orion spacecraft—slated to fly astronauts to space in the 2020s as part of NASA’s plan for humans to land on Mars by the early 2030s.

Have you tried VR? Wishing you could try it? If you don’t have access to VR, you can still travel to distant planets with books. It’s a lot cheaper and you can take your time! Check out Starcrossed: 7 Novels of Space Exploration, Alien Races, Adventure, and Romance!

cover art

Perilously yours,


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