Explore Mars With NASA's New VR Experience
Actually taking a stroll on Mars any time in the near future probably wouldn't be a particularly fun time.
You'd spend three years on a cramped spaceship, before finally arriving in an inhospitable environment that would be almost entirely deadly. As excited as Musk might be to start shooting people off to the Red Planet, the whole experience of being there would be far from comfortable.
If only you could explore the iconic landmarks of Martian exploration without leaving your climate-controlled living room... If only you could simply slip on a headset and instantly teleport your mind to the surface of an alien world.
Thanks to a new piece of official software from NASA, you can do just that.
Access Mars is a tool that was ostensibly built for NASA scientists to get a better look at the planet's surface themselves. Thousands of images that have been taken by the Curiosity rover have been combined to create a detailed 3D environment that near enough perfectly replicates the planet's surface.
In partnership with Google, NASA has released a version of this technology that can be accessed through the web using computers, smartphones, and virtual reality visors, allowing everyone the chance to take a closer look at the discoveries that Curiosity has made over the years.
The experience shows off several key sites from Curiosity's five years on Mars thus far, and comes complete with a series of notes and facts that explain exactly what makes each site so significant, and what we've learned as a result of the rover's time on the planet.
Since Access Mars is a web app, it doesn't require any downloads or installation; it should work on even the five-year-old iPad that your grandmother uses as a coaster. Everyone with even a halfway decent computer should be able to enjoy it, although of course, the experience is somewhat more immersive when viewed through virtual reality goggles.
It's exciting to think of how this kind of technology will change the way we access and engage with scientific discoveries.
It's possible to use virtual reality for all kinds of learning opportunities that will make the absorption of facts feel far more immediate, relevant, and contextually clear.
It's one thing to read about the Curiosity landing site, or even to see the pictures that the rover took - it's a completely different experience to stand on Mars' surface and behold the area with your own two eyes.
Here's hoping we'll be getting more experiences like this in the future, and that the VR recreation of Mars' iconic red rock terrain will inspire a future generation of potential astronauts.