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NASA is crowdsourcing a VR training program to prepare astronauts for Mars

Manned missions to Mars are scheduled to begin in the mid 2030s

NASA is teaming up with crowdsourcing platform HeroX, game studio Epic Games, and VR specialists Buendea to hold a competition to create a VR Mars simulator to train astronauts for manned missions to Mars.

NASA is supplying contestants with a digital space that simulates the terrain and gravity of the red planet, wherein they must construct missions and scenarios for training purposes. As originally detailed by Payload, the contest is constructed of two phases. First, the Storyboard phase, where contestants pitch concepts and designs of their missions. Then, the Development phase, where these concepts are turned into a (virtual) reality by developing their functionality.

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 Photo: Buendea

“These assets and scenarios will be essential to exposing researchers and test subjects to EVA-relevant scenarios, procedures, and informatics while on the Red Planet,” said Patrick Estep, human performance engineer at NASA. As NASA has already identified thousands of tasks that a crew may need to execute on Mars, the proposed VR simulation would allow astronauts to train for potential obstacles at a fraction of the cost of traditional physical simulators.

2,300 contestants have already signed up for the competition, and a prize of $70,000 will be awarded to multiple winners.

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