KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL- Think a Holodeck adventure on Star Trek guided by real life Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and you’ll get a really good idea of what’s in store for you as you explore the surface of Mars like never before in the immersive new ‘Destination Mars’ interactive holographic exhibit opening to the public today, Monday, Sept.19, at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida.
The new Red Planet exhibit was formally opened for business during a very special ribbon cutting ceremony featuring Buzz Aldrin as the star attraction – deftly maneuvering the huge ceremonial scissors during an in depth media preview and briefing on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, including Universe Today.
The fabulous new ‘Destination Mars’ limited engagement exhibit magically transports you to the surface of the Red Planet via Microsoft HoloLens technology.
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It literally allows you to ‘Walk on Mars’ using real imagery taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and explore the alien terrain, just like real life scientists on a geology research expedition.
“Technology like HoloLens leads us once again toward exploration,” Aldrin said during the Sept. 18 media preview. “It’s my hope that experiences like “Destination: Mars” will continue to inspire us to explore.”
Destination Mars was jointly developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – which manages the Curiosity rover mission for NASA – and Microsoft HoloLens.
Buzz was ably assisted at the grand ribbon cutting ceremony by Bob Cabana, former shuttle commander and current Kennedy Space Center Director, Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the visitor complex, Kudo Tsunoda of Microsoft, and Jeff Norris of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The experience is housed in a pop-up theater that only runs for the next three and a half months, until New Years Day, January 1, 2017.
Before entering the theater, you will be fitted with specially adjusted HoloLens headsets individually tailored to your eyes.
The entire ‘Destination Mars’ experience only lasts barely 8 minutes.
So, if you are lucky enough to get a ticket inside you’ll need to take advantage of every precious second to scan around from left and right and back, and top to bottom. Be sure to check out Mount Sharp and the rim of Gale Crater.
You’ll even be able to find a real drill hole that Curiosity bored into the Red Planet at Yellowknife Bay about six months after the nailbiting landing in August 2012.
During your experience you will be guided by Buzz and Curiosity rover driver Erisa Hines of JPL. They will lead you to areas of Mars where the science team has made many breakthrough discoveries such as that liquid water once flowed on the floor of Curiosity’s Gale Crater landing site.
The scenes come to life based on imagery combining the Mastcam color cameras and the black and white navcam cameras, Jeff Norris of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Universe Today in an interview.
Among the surface features visited is Yellowknife Bay where Curiosity conducted the first interplanetary drilling and sampling on another planet in our Solar System. The sample were subsequently fed to and analyzed by the pair of miniaturized chemistry labs – SAM and CheMin – inside the rovers belly.
They also guide viewers to “a tantalizing glimpse of a future Martian colony.”
“The technology that accomplishes this is called “mixed reality,” where virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact, “ according to a NASA description.
“The public experience developed out of a JPL-designed tool called OnSight. Using the HoloLens headset, scientists across the world can explore geographic features on Mars and even plan future routes for the Curiosity rover.”
Curiosity is currently exploring the spectacular looking buttes in the Murray Buttes region in lower Mount Sharp. Read my recent update here.
Be sure to pay attention or your discovery walk on Mars will be over before you know it. Personally, as a Mars lover and Mars mosaic maker I was thrilled by the 3 D reality and I was ready for more.
This limited availability, timed experience is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations must be made the day of your visite at the Destination: Mars reservation counter, says the KSC Visitor Complex (KSCVC).
You can get more information or book a visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, by clicking on the website link:
Be sure to visit this spectacular holographic exhibit before it closes on New Year’s Day 2017 because it is only showing at KSCVC.
There are no plans to book it at other venues, Norris told me.
As of today, Sol 1465, September 19, 2016, Curiosity has driven over 7.9 miles (12.7 kilometers) since its August 2012 landing inside Gale Crater, and taken over 354,000 amazing images.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.