Can you help NASA create a Mars SIM in VR?

Whatever your project or endeavor, simulation is a useful tool for finding out what you don’t know. In many cases, the problem or problems are not clear until you try to do something. Where that thing is expensive or difficult to do, a simulation can be a low-stack way to find some problem without huge cost or unwanted risk.

Getting to Mars is just as difficult and expensive. So, it’s amazing that NASA relies on simulations to plan its mission to the Red Planet. Now, the space agency is working to create a Mars SIM in VR for training and evaluation purposes. The best part is that you can help!

Why imitate Mars?

Sunset on Mars was captured in 2005 by NASA’s Spirit Rover. Even simple things like night and day are different on Mars than on Earth, and can show complexity in NASA’s operations. Simulation will help to find it ahead of time. Credit: NASA, public domain

When it comes to things like rocket performance and calculating satellite trajectories, NASA is well-equipped for simulations. It has got a crack team of engineers and scientists who have spent decades developing these tools for the agency.

However, when it comes to placing astronauts on the surface of Mars, NASA doesn’t really have much to do. In the future, astronauts could land on the planet and be charged with various tasks in the Martian environment. These can range from exploring on foot or motorized vehicles, setting up permanent housing facilities, or creating hardware to locate resources locally on the surface of Mars, and to solve problems.

Humans have never undertaken any of these tasks before, and so it is difficult to know what challenges may be presented when future astronauts arrive on Mars. Ideally, we want a good idea of ​​what things will be like before we leave astronauts on their own devices on a planet a million kilometers away. It would be incredibly frustrating to use your tools to get to and from Mars, or if your accommodations were unusable, it would be incredibly frustrating to do something about it.

It’s just like being there

Thus, there is a simulation sequence! The company has already done some ground work by creating an atmosphere of Mars in the Unreal Engine 5 of Epic Games. Known as the Mars XR Operation Support System, the virtual environment mimics the surface conditions of Mars as they experience it. By astronauts. The simulation is intended for use with VR gear, so that astronauts or others may think and act as if they were actually on a red planet.

So far, Mars has a simulated day / night cycle with suitable sky conditions with suitable values ​​for gravity. There are also working rovers based on our best knowledge of the meteorology of Mars and the changing weather conditions. The simulator includes a huge 400 km (154 mi) terrain to cover based on NASA’s own research.

One of the challenge sections is “Set up camp.” The purpose of creating a simulation of Mars camping is to see what challenges it could be for astronauts. Credit: NASA, public domain

All that done, NASA came up with a new problem. The company’s Mars simulation is actually Very accurate Like the planet, there’s really nothing to do. This is where the public comes in. NASA has created the MarsXR Challenge, which has charged the public with the task of creating a Mars simulator with useful content. Naturally, to be an effective training and exploratory aid for NASA and its astronauts, the simulator must be filled with realistic resources and situations.

Seb Loze, business director of Unreal Engine for Simulation of Epic Games, noted that it provides opportunities for those involved. Creators can help NASA prepare for future missions to create realistic simulation situations using unrealistic engines, whether on the moon or on Mars, “Lodge said.” Whether you’re a game designer, architect, hobbyist or rocket scientist, anyone can You can Build with UE5, and we can’t wait to see what immersive simulations the community brings. “

The astronauts famously used the Lunar Roving Vehicle to orbit the moon on the next Apollo mission. We are sure that very few people will miss the opportunity to run something similar on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA, public domain

The competition is being hosted on the crowdsourcing platform HeroX, which helps clients share projects with the wider public to find useful and unique solutions. According to the Challenge website, there are five separate categories for engaging with competitors. Four work-based sections, including set-up camps, scientific research, maintenance and exploration. The final section, Blow Hour Minds, is an invitation to creative and technically skilled individuals who simply fascinate judges beyond all expectations.

The challenge comes with a prize purse of 70,000, which will be shared across 20 separate prizes. There are four prizes in each category, with the overall winner scoring $ 6,000 for their work. There is no need to limit yourself or your team though. NASA welcomes multiple entries in multiple categories, and entrants are also eligible for multiple awards.

You may have a great idea for a Martin medical simulation or perhaps an exciting mission where astronauts go a long way in the Red Desert with some of the approximate Lunar Roving Vehicles. Maybe you want to emulate a recovery operation to bring back the brave Spirit Rover, which has served with distinction and deserves to come home.

Whatever your idea, the submission deadline is July 27, 2022. Create an idea, assemble your crew and get to it!

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