Over 500 people have been to space, according to Fédération Aéronautique Internationale guidelines. Only 12 people have walked on the Moon. The number of people who have been close enough to the cosmos to make out extraterrestrial details, then, is an astonishingly small number. But NASA is looking to change that with virtual reality projects currently in development. The organization wants to put you on Mars and see the red planet like the Curiosity rover would. It’s out of this world.
In the video above, join me as I enjoy a virtual tour of NASA’s “OnSight” project, which takes hi-res photos of Mars and uses the Microsoft Hololens headset to overlay the Martian terrain — as detailed as scientists see it — onto the world around you. Look to the horizon and you’ll see a looming Mount Sharp. Look down and you’ll see layers of rocks realized enough that you’re compelled to reach out and touch them. Turn around and you’ll see a life-sized Curiosity. It’s a “mixed reality” experience that makes you feel like you’re there, and NASA is planning to bring it to the public very soon. But scientists are already using OnSite to meet virtually — in the form of avatars — on Mars, seeing the surface like they never have before with a collaboration tool that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The other project I got to demo was “ProtoSpace,” which puts life-sized technical models of spacecraft in any room, anywhere in the world. ProtoSpace lets you literally walk through rovers and boosters and engines to see every aspect of the engineering without getting your hands dirty. Three NASA missions are currently using this Minority Report-like tool to check and design spacecraft parts and pieces.
From what I could see, NASA’s use of Hololens could be a revolution. Both projects let scientists collaborate in a way never before possible, with technology that most people only associate with video gaming. But what do you think? Are you itching to get your ass (virtually) to Mars? Let us know in the comments below.
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