Read the full story on Forbes: National Geographic VR Experience Let Me Land And Walk On Mars.
There are few things as universally exciting and inspirational as exploring space, and few organizations capable of sharing the thrill of space exploration the way National Geographic can. I had the privilege of attending the premier screening event for the upcoming Mars miniseries, and had the unique opportunity to experience a little of what it might be like to land on or walk on the surface of Mars.
There is an unprecedented brain trust involved with the production of the Mars series. The series was inspired by the book ‘How We’ll Live on Mars’ by Stephen Petranek. Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard collaborated with National Geographic and a team of experts including Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, former US astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and more.
These brilliant and esteemed experts were part of a panel discussion hosted by National Geographic on the morning of the screening. One thing that exudes from everyone involved in this project is enthusiasm for a manned mission to Mars. An idea that was once a mere science fiction fantasy is now accepted as a foregone conclusion. It is not a matter of “if”—it’s just “when”.
In connection with the upcoming premier of the Mars series, National Geographic also put together a VR simulation called Experience Mars—housed in a white dome structure in the middle of New York. Thanks to National Geographic and MajorMega, I was able to experience landing on Mars and walking on the surface of the Red Planet at just 38 percent of the gravity of Earth.
There seems to be a renewed energy about space and space exploration—driven in large part by private efforts like those being driven by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Space exploration in general, and Mars colonization specifically are now part of the general consciousness around the world.
The Mars lander experience was created using a 2-seat “cockpit” hoisted and suspended by cables while you view the landing through a virtual reality headset. The combination of the immersive view in the VR headset and the actual physical motion of the seat I was harnessed to did an admirable job of emulating the sensation of plummeting toward Mars, skimming the surface, and firing the retrorockets to safely touch down on the planet.
In the next room, I had to put on what I can only describe as a pair of wetsuit shorts. There was a ring around the waist with a zipper that connected to a sealed compartment on a treadmill to create an airtight seal. The compartment was then pressurized and calibrated to simulate what it would feel like for me to walk in an environment with just 38 percent of Earth’s gravity. A VR headset completed the ensemble so I could have an immersive experience of what it might be like to walk on Mars.