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    Virtual Reality for Space Exploration and Astronaut Training

    Virtual Reality for Space Exploration and Astronaut Training

    Tracy Watson

    03/12/2020

    7 min read

    vr space simulator and austronaut training

    Virtual reality is widely used today in the gaming, medical, and entertainment industries, but there are a lot of scientific applications of VR as well. One of such interesting applications is the area of space exploration and astronaut training. Since VR is very immersive and provides life-like experiences, it can be an invaluable tool for helping astronauts prepare for what they may encounter when they set out for a real-life mission. Let’s take a closer look at VR in space, how it facilitates space exploration, and some of the benefits it provides to astronauts that use it. 

    Using a VR Space Simulator for Training

    In order to simulate reduced gravity environments, NASA uses many different techniques and facilities. One of them is called the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), which simulates the weightless environment of space within a closed training facility where astronauts can move about and/or equipment to be moved about as if they were in a different gravity field. All of the astronauts would be connected to a crane that would sense their motions and would lift them up or move them around as if they were actually in space. As you can imagine, building such a facility is very expensive, and VR could make them obsolete since all of the training can be done virtually. 

    A great example is the Titan Lake, a VR space simulator created by Raytracer. The user wears a VR helmet while being immersed in a swimming pool, and they will be transformed into a VR space environment. This allows the astronauts to experience reduced gravity environments, and they can train in a lunar orbit, a Martian orbit, or conduct a spacewalk at the International Space Station. Astronauts will be able to train together in the virtual reality space environment, and they will be able to see exactly what their teammates are seeing. 

    virtual reality space

    Additional Uses of VR in Astronaut Training

    In reduced gravity environments, things like open hatches and putting out fires come with complex step-by-step procedures. NASA recently experimented with the effectiveness of VR for such training as opposed to traditional written instructions. The training in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) is an underwater training facility that simulates the actual conditions inside the space station. Researchers remotely led astronauts through VR training, where they learned how to perform everything from day-to-day fixes to treating appendicitis. The results of the VR training were spectacular as participants were able to perform the needed tasks in one hour as opposed to 4 hours with traditional written instructions. 

    Anybody Can Experience Space With VR

    A lot of people always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but only a select few can actually become astronauts. Thanks to virtual reality, we can all have the experience of walking on the moon or piloting a space shuttle. NASA has created a simulation that allows the public to experience VR space and recreate their own mission to Mars. Planetariums can also use a space exploration VR app along with a headset to give virtual tours of other planets. In fact, this is something the Kennedy Space Center is already using with OnSight, which is a virtual reconstruction of the Martian surface. There are two purposes to this technology. One of them is to give visitors a life-like tour of Mars and remotely guide the Curiosity Mars rover on its missions. 

    Such virtual reality space travel can help increase public engagement, and there are many educational uses and benefits as well. For example, virtual reality development allows companies to create life-like experiences for students learning about space. Instead of simply reading about the solar system, VR can actually allow them to see what the surface of a planet actually looks like and what it would be like to land on that planet. 

    virtual reality space travel

    Pros and Cons of VR Space Exploration

    There are many benefits of using virtual reality in space exploration. Some of them include: 

    • More accurate and efficient training;
    • All of the training is done in a safe and controlled environment;
    • VR space travel allows anybody to have the experience of being an astronaut;
    • VR lowers the cost of training for private space companies since they no longer have to invest in building large facilities. 

    Even with all of these benefits, there are still drawbacks to VR travel through space, such as: 

    • It will take time for astronauts to become adjusted to the VR space exploration simulator;
    • There could be some technical issues that slow down the training;
    • Some astronauts may still prefer traditional approaches to space training.

    Start Taking Advantage of VR Travel Through Space

    Regardless of whether you are a private or government space agency, museum, planetarium, or educational institution, you can start realizing all of the advantages of VR space travel. Skywell Software is a serious games development company that can create the solution you need. Regardless of how complex or innovative your vision is, we can make it a reality. 

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