Embark on your own VR Mars mission

NASA and virtual reality, a match made in heaven

If you needed another reason to see 2016 as the year of virtual reality, NASA is working on a project to let all of us experience working on the red planet. Mars 2030 promises to be an educational and entertaining VR experience that puts you in the shoes of an astronaut on a Mars mission. I thought No Man’s Sky would be the only VR experience to bring me to other worlds this year, but I can’t wait to embrace my inner Mark Whatney.

NASA have formed a Space Act Agreement with Fusion Media to bring research to the public eye. Working with former Irrational Games developers, Fusion Media are creating a virtual reality experience that will let you live out a Mars mission. Sydney Do, a PhD student at M.I.T. has been brought aboard as consultant after publishing a paper criticising the Dutch non-profit Mars One mission, which he argued is unrealistic with current technology. Do and the Fusion Media team were invited to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to see the technology NASA is developing for future Mars missions. There’s no doubt this will be the most realistic experience available to the public when it’s released. After waking in habitation, you will be able to perform scientific experiments, eat your space food, and explore Mars by foot or rover.

Mars 2030 will be shown off at the SXSW film, music, and interactive festival in March. The experience will then be made available to the public later in 2016 for free. The developers are using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, which is powerful and will allow the experience to run on many platforms. NASA have said the game will be compatible with Oculus Rift, Samsung VR Gear, and Google Cardboard. The software will be on Steam and mobile versions will be available on iOS and Android. They might have trouble on Steam as there’s already an Early Access game called Mars 2030. Oops.

The astronauts that will hopefully visit Mars for the first time are currently in school. This educational experience might be what inspires them into space exploration and lets them see what’s being done to bring them to the red planet.

Main image © NASA