The MarsVR Program
A Multi-Phase Approach to Developing Virtual Reality
The Mars Society is building a new open-source Virtual Reality platform — we call it “MarsVR” — that can be used for serious research towards the goal of sending humans to Mars. The MarsVR Program will be a multi-phase effort designed to pioneer the emerging field of CrowdExploration, which we define as the partnership between the first astronauts on Mars and the VR experts and enthusiasts back on Earth. We aim to establish the capability of using Virtual Reality to assist with the initial human exploration of landing sites. Phase I of the Mars VR Program will focus on designing training simulations for use at the Mars Desert Research Station, providing direct assistance in the training of MDRS crew members. We will also open-source the key elements of the platform so that the general public can freely make use of it to experience the exploration of Mars.
Phase 1: MDRS Prototype & Demos
Phase 1 of MarsVR was focused on creating a prototype training environment centered on the Mars Desert Research Station. We scanned the base and a square mile of terrain using a drone and the latest photogrammetry techniques. We stitched these visual and virtual reality data assets together into a Unity project that was successfully demoed at the Mars Society conference and several other events. The Phase 1 build is available for Mars Society chapters upon request but it is not yet publicly available. Our team of volunteers will be significantly augmenting this environment in Phase 3 along with significantly improved & updated terrain and facilities models.
Phase 2: Improved Models & Unity Project Upgrades
Phase 2 was focused on upgrading our Unity project and VR libraries to be more flexible and able to handle multiple environments and 3-D Base/Colony designs in addition to the MDRS facilities. We began work on a future Mars terrain using the region of Melas Chasma on the floor of Valles Marineris, which is an ideal human settlement location. We also worked to improve our photogrammetry building interiors and drone-captured terrain assets in preparation for future phases. We also released our first open source model on Sketchfab. Phase 2 is now concluded.
Phase 3: First Public Release & New Partnerships
Phase 3 has begun in February 2021 with our new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, with additional sponsorship opportunities to support 2021 development. We plan to issue our first public release, additional open sourcing of models and other assets, as well as creating additional training scenarios. We are also adding new partnerships with VR/AR companies and communities.
Phase 4: Training, Multiplayer, Schools & Museums
Phase 4 will roll out our full set of peer-reviewed crew training procedures, our multi-user environment, K-12 curriculum, and begin our outreach to schools and museums. Additional releases in Phase 4 will increase the amount of training procedures available in the application, add a new analytics layer to collect data for researchers, and more overall content in the application.
Goals of the MarsVR Platform
A Serious Research Tool
We are making an engineering-grade Virtual Reality application that supports serious research towards the exploration of Mars.
A STEM Education Platform
MarsVR will be a free, open source, and customizable environment, able to meet many educational purposes.
A Public Outreach Tool
We hope to use MarsVR to tell the story of the future human exploration of Mars.
An Inspiration to the Youth
We aim to inspire the next generation of explorers and aspiring astronauts.
An Immersive VR Experience
MarsVR will be a fully immersive experience, making use of the latest VR hardware and innovations.
An Open Source Platform
We want to ensure that MarsVR is available and customizable for everybody.
An Example of Best Practices
We want to make best use of generally accepted technology processes and tools.
A Love Letter to Space Geeks
Built by and for space advocates, we hope everybody will enjoy this VR platform.