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VR Project Exhibits Science and Life aboard the International Space Station

A gripping new virtual reality (VR) experience will let people across the globe explore the interiors of the International Space Station.

The VR project, called Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, was designed by using a 360-degree camera. The camera was sent over to the International Space Station to let astronauts film onboard footage, showing how life and science prevailed at a distance of 400 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

A 360 image of the Cupola of the International Space Station taken as a part of the ISS Experience. Credits: Courtesy of Felix & Paul Studios / Time

The project, which originated through the collaboration of Felix & Paul Studios and Time is more than a NASA outreach programme. It also enables the makers to showcase state-of-the-art camera technology to audiences. Felix & Paul Studios, the production house behind the project, had a high-definition camera. But a statement by NASA has revealed that this camera was nearly 4-feet tall, making it impractical for use within the space station.

As an alternative, a smaller camera was launched into space on the 16th commercial-resupply mission of SpaceX in December 2018. The VR project is being filmed by the space station’s crew, who have captured several insightful moments, including scientific experiments and crew meals. Some of the footage captured includes that of vegetables being grown in space, and experiments involving the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) robots.

Félix Lajeunesse, creative director and co-founder of Felix & Paul Studios spoke about the project’s content in the NASA statement. He revealed that the company has been formulating the use of science experiments that offer immersive experiences to viewers.

Thinking about what technologies will emerge next can be quite mind-boggling, as is wondering how the developments can be used in the future. – Félix Lajeunesse

The astronauts aboard the ISS are the stars and the ones filming the footage, as there are limitations to how many people could be on the station simultaneously. The project is yet to be released, but according to astronauts who have been on the station, the footage shows the precise experience of being on the International Space Station to its viewers.

Astronaut Suni Williams, who has been on the space station before, also remarked about the footage in the NASA statement. According to her, the experience felt like being back in the International Space Station. Williams expressed that the virtual reality footage was so engaging that one barely feels the presence of a VR headset on their head. According to her, the experience can help people appreciate the way people work and live in the ISS.

A 360 photo of NASA astronaut Anne McClain performing her daily training sessions. Daily exercise in space is crucial for astronauts to prevent muscle loss. Credits: Courtesy of Felix & Paul Studios / Time

An upcoming challenge of the project will be filming a spacewalk in action. The release date has not been announced yet.

Mia Tramz, a VR producer and editorial director of enterprise and immersive experiences at Time, spoke about the project in a statement to Time. She expressed excitement in being able to collaborate with Felix & Paul Studio, to bring more audience exposure to the project. According to Tramz, the VR project will be available across the physical, immersive and digital platforms, and function as an educational tool for future generations.

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