In this image made from video provided by NASA, U.S. astronauts Peggy Whitson, above, and Shane Kimbrough work on the outside of the International Space Station on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (NASA via AP/Thomas Pesquet via AP)
Take a virtual trip to the International Space Station
April 11, 2017
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What's life like aboard the International Space Station? This is a question only a select few can answer. But thanks to a new virtual reality tour, more people than ever can step aboard the floating lab. They can virtually explore the station and its mindboggling views. This is according to Mashable's Adario Strange.
The program was created in cooperation with NASA and the Canadian and European space agencies. It is called Mission: ISS. And it's probably the closest you'll ever come to visiting the space station. The program uses Oculus Rift virtual reality and Oculus Touch motion control. They create a realistic simulation of life aboard the station.
As Oculus writes on its blog, the movie was designed to recreate the ISS "in painstaking detail." It is a free simulation. The program was based on NASA models. It was developed with the input of astronauts and NASA's Virtual Reality Laboratory. The lab uses virtual reality. It can train astronauts for their in-space tasks.
With the help of motion controls, users can try their hand at everything from spacewalks to docking spacecrafts. This is all in a simulated zero-gravity environment. (Strange warns that the simulated weightlessness is so realistic that users might want to sit down before stepping into the virtual world.)
The simulation may be fun, but it is no video game, Strange writes. The program is intended give users a realistic idea of what it's like to live in space. Users can also learn about individual astronauts and the history of the ISS through a series of video clips. The team is also testing the program as an educational tool. It could teach high school students about the station.
Augmented reality is already being tested in space. This is with the help of Microsoft's HoloLens headset. One day, it will be used to guide repairs and let on-ground techs see exactly what astronauts observe. Virtual reality has yet to make it into space. That's about to change, according to the Oculus blog. An Oculus headset will be sent to space. It will be used by astronaut Thomas Pesquet to test how gravity affects spatial awareness.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why don't we know all the ways VR will be used in space?
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