Let’s Go to Mars
The Mars 2030 Experience, recently announced by NASA, is a virtual reality project due for release later this year.
Coinciding with the space agency’s plan for a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s, The Mars 2030 Experience will simulate an astronaut’s visit to the red planet. Players will have the opportunity to embark on a number of mini-missions within a Mars habitat, as well as driving the Mars Rover and walking on the surface of the planet itself.
According to NASA’s Erin Maloney, the project is intended “to make space more accessible to individuals” and “bring the concepts closer to reality for those who truly enjoy virtual life off of Earth.”
The Mars 2030 Experience will be free and available for multiple VR devices, including the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive. It will also be released for Android and Apple mobile devices.
Mars Team Assemble
NASA will be working with a number of partners to bring the project to fruition. The project had its genesis with experiments conducted by developers at Fusion Media, who will be working to market the project via a television special and Twitch stream, thanks to a Space Act Agreement with NASA.
Also involved: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Space Systems Laboratory and a team of game developers from the now-closed Irrational Games, best known for their work on System Shock and BioShock (presumably, a malevolent artificial intelligence will not be making an appearance in this particularly project). The Mars 2030 Experience is being developed using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.
First the Moon, Then Mars, and Then the Universe!
The Mars 2030 Experience is not NASA’s first foray into video games, of course. In 2010, the agency collaborated with Virtual Heroes and The Army Game Studio to produce Moonbase Alpha, a free, albeit brief, multi-player game scenario set on a lunar base.
IGR editor in chief Indie-Game-Freak praised the game’s attention to detail, calling it “sufficiently immersive to make me daydream about actually being on the moon and how effectively I might be able to keep my friends alive.”