Nasa invites armchair astronauts to set foot on Mars

Nasa’s fascination with the Red Planet has found a new outlet despite the planet remaining a stubborn 48m miles away, in the form of a holographic replica of our celestial neighbour.

Teaming up with Microsoft’s HoloLens the agency has created an augmented reality vision of what it would be like to wander the dusty plains, canyons and calderas of Mars to help enthuse the public with a sense of wonder.

Destination: Mars follows a hypothetical mission to the desert world with a lifelike hologram of Buzz Aldrin beamed in to guide visitors through the alien landscape.

Explaining the genesis of the project, Dr Jeff Norris, lead mission operations at JPL, said: "We didn't concoct this environment for people to look at. It's not a theme park ride. This is what Mars really looks like. People are looking at it the same way as many of our scientists are looking at it.

“We use HoloLens for OnSight because we wanted the scientists, who we're building the tools for, to be able to use other tools in conjunction with it. So when they're on the surface of Mars, they can look up and see where things are but also do things on their computer at the same time."

Rather than just a pretty film the virtual environment offers a very real training environment for astronauts, scientists and engineers as they prepare to mount a physical expedition to Mars at some point over the coming decades.

Thios follows the space agencies first foray into virtual reality with Mars 2030 for Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR.

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