NASA has partnered up with Epic Games to create a virtual reality Mars metaverse.
The joint project hopes to become a helpful tool for space agencies when planning the first human expedition on the Red Planet.
To get the ball rolling, Nasa has partnered with HeroX to launch the MarsXR challenge.
This test tasks developers with creating scenarios that cosmonauts may face while on Mars.
Challenges are divided into five categories: Set Up Camp, Scientific Research, Maintenance, Exploration, and 'Blow Our Minds'.
Once all VR designs are in, Nasa is slated to pick up to 20 developers to share the $70,000 prize fund.
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Potential virtual situations on Mars could range from setting up a base camp to facing a severe dust storm.
When developing their VR scenarios, designers also need to create assets and processes that astronauts can seamlessly follow in the future using VR headsets.
MarsXR's OS system was built using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5, a tool that creates real-time 3D visuals for immersive experiences.
Developers participating in the challenge will be the first to access the digital world.
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Their assignment can include single or multiplayer scenarios.
"Creators can use Unreal Engine to build realistic simulation scenarios to help prepare NASA for future missions, whether that's to the moon or to Mars," said Seb Loze, Unreal Engine business director for simulation at Epic Games.
"Whether you're a game designer, architect, hobbyist, or rocket scientist, anyone can build with UE5, and we can't wait to see the immersive simulations the community comes up with."
The race to Mars is on…
Nasa is the only entity trying to get to Mars, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has also been vocal about his ambitions for colonizing the Red Planet.
Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and since then has constantly reiterated one of his biggest goals is to help make humankind a multi-planetary species.
In order to achieve this otherworldly feat, the world's richest man (at the time of publishing) turned his attention to the red planet, located approximately 33.9 million miles away from Earth.
"If we are able to make life self-sustaining on Mars, we will have passed one of the greatest filters. That then sets us up to become interstellar,” Musk wrote on Twitter in November.
“Earth is ~4.5B years old, but life is still not multi-planetary and it is extremely uncertain how much time is left to become so,” he added.
So far, Musk's long-term vision for Mars looks something like building a self-sustaining city that features solar-powered hydroponic farms and vegan diets.
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“The next really big thing is to build a self-sustaining city on Mars and bring the animals and creatures of Earth there,” Musk told Time.
“Sort of like a futuristic Noah’s ark. We’ll bring more than two, though — it’s a little weird if there’s only two,” he continued.
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