Monday, September 26, 2016

Guests at Kennedy Space Center can now explore Mars just like NASA scientists do, via HoloLens

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 10:23 AM

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Among the rockets and space memorabilia, Kennedy Space Center has unveiled the future of interactive, educational experiences. Destination: Mars, a new temporary attraction at the KSC Visitors Center, harnesses the power of Microsoft’s augmented reality headset HoloLens. Using HoloLens technology and photos taken via the Curiosity rover on Mars, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) created an authentic digitally simulated Mars landscape using their OnSight automatic image stitching program.

The new attraction gives guests a sample of the OnSight created Mars landscape that NASA uses as part of the process to decide where Curiosity should explore.

“We’re thrilled to partner with NASA’s JPL in enabling a whole new way for its scientists to study Mars via Microsoft HoloLens, and now we’re excited to finally offer the public a glimpse into NASA’s use of this transformative technology,” said Microsoft HoloLens’s general manager, Scott Erickson.

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Guests at Kennedy Space Center can sign up for the limited-time experience at the entrance of the attraction, near the bus loading area. Reservations are on a first come, first serve basis and can only be made on the day of. The attraction takes in roughly two groups of eight people at a time for a roughly eight-minute experience. After watching a short video that explains how NASA uses HoloLens to better understand Mars, guests are fitted with the “mixed reality” headsets. The headsets are then activated, allowing guests to explore a small patch of Mars. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Curiosity driver Erisa Hines serve as the holographic tour guides during the Mars experience. Guests are shown both how Mars looks today and what NASA envisions the future permanent base on the Red Planet to look like. This is one of the first public displays of NASA’s use of HoloLens and one of the first extended public displays of the headset in the Central Florida region.

Destination: Mars is open now through Jan. 1, 2017, at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It is included in general admission, but reservations are required.

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