‘Destination: Mars’ Virtual Reality Experience Now Open at Kennedy Space Center, By Sarah Lewin

Buzz Aldrin explored Mars virtually Sept. 18, 2016 with “Destination: Mars,” newly opened at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Erisa Hines, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who drives Mars’ Curiosity rover, is just to Aldrin’s left. Both appear as virtual avatars in the simulation. Credit: NASA/Charles Babir

Real-life astronaut Buzz Aldrin introduced his virtual counterpart Sunday (Sept. 18) at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, previewing a new “mixed reality” exhibit that lets visitors explore the surface of Mars with a virtual Aldrin as their guide. The exhibit officially opened to the public Monday (Sept. 19) and will be open until the end of the year.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California developed the program, called “Destination: Mars,” in partnership with Microsoft HoloLens. Visitors use a HoloLens headset, which makes virtual imagery visible on top of the real world, to experience Mars as observed by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

Aldrin, who flew on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, recalled how inspirational the moon landing was for a generation of potential space scientists. Perhaps, he said in a statement, this type of technology could have a similar effect.

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