MIT grad student Sydney Do peers from the front window of NASA’s drivable Mars rover prototype at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. MIT grad student Sydney Do peers from the front window of NASA’s drivable Mars rover prototype at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. MIT grad student Sydney Do peers from the front window of NASA’s drivable Mars rover prototype at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Photo: Charles Camarda / NASA)

Now you can experience Mars in virtual reality

At the upcoming South by Southwest Festival, attendees will get a trip that's out of this world.

Ever wanted to live on Mars without having to actually make the trip? Well, now's your chance.

NASA is teaming up with Sydney Do, a young MIT doctoral student, to create an immersive 3D environment that makes it appear as if you're living on Mars. Using a smartphone and simple $15 Google Cardboard virtual reality goggles, you'll be able to wake up in a Martian habitat, grab some breakfast, jump into your spacesuit and head out for a stroll across the Red Planet's surface. The technology will be on display at the South by Southwest Festival this month in Austin.

It promises to be the most realistic vision of life on Mars so far (unless you're Matt Damon). And speaking of "The Martian," Fox Studios is making a fully interactive virtual reality experience out of the Oscar-nominated movie.

All of this comes as work on actual travel to Mars progresses at a fast clip. In the past year alone, NASA has unveiled a three-step plan for sending astronauts to Mars and asked for the public's help in designing Mars habitats. To help them with their Mars mission, the U.S. space agency has entered into a partnership with Israel, the same country that hosted an international space conference in October, where Mars was a hot topic.

And this summer, about 150 space experts will convene at the Technion Institute in Israel for the International Space University forum. “Humanity wants to go to Mars, and I’m glad to be part of this step," said John Connolly, a senior engineer at NASA who is helping to organize the semester-long Israel event. "Space is the next ocean that we want to cross in order to discover what’s just beyond our reach.”

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Now you can experience Mars in virtual reality
At the upcoming South by Southwest Festival, attendees will get a trip that's out of this world.