Most of us would probably never set foot on Mars, and NASA knows this. That is why the space agency has now decided to bring the red planet to us.
On Wednesday, NASA announced plans for a new exhibition, named “Destination: Mars,” which, once it opens at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer, would let people get a feel of what it is like to be on Mars.
The “mixed reality” project, wherein virtual elements are merged with the actual environment to create an interactive experience, is a joint collaboration between NASA and Microsoft. According to the space agency, it will let visitors use Microsoft’s HoloLens headset to “visit” several sites on Mars, reconstructed using real images gathered by the Curiosity rover which has been trundling around our neighboring planet since 2012.
“This experience lets the public explore Mars in an entirely new way. To walk through the exact landscape that Curiosity is roving across puts its achievements and discoveries into beautiful context,” Doug Ellison, a visualization producer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement.
And to top off this experience, those who choose to take the virtual stroll across the surface of Mars would be guided by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who has been a vociferous advocate of Mars’ colonization.
The project would utilize the same technology used by the OnSight software — developed by NASA and Microsoft — which allows scientists to plan operations on Mars and to decide where Curiostiy should head next.
“OnSight makes the whole process of analyzing the data feel a lot more natural to me,” Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science team member at JPL, said in the statement. “It really gives me the sense that I'm in the field when I put it on. Thinking about Martian geology is a lot more intuitive when I can stand in the scene and walk around the way I would if I were in the field.”