Thanks to some historic events in space science, being an astronaut has once again become a “cool” career path. Of course, that chances of actually being chosen for a space mission are very slim. The next best thing? Getting a taste of what it’s like to live and work as an astronaut, made possible with virtual reality. That is exactly the “close enough” experience that Oculus is offering with Mission:ISS, which will let you at least see if you have what it takes to live among the stars.
Of course, it’s going to always be an approximation, and some experiences can never be reproduced using VR alone. Things like zero gravity, wearing a space suit, or even actually holding instruments need a different kind of simulation. Still, Oculus tries to be as accurate as it can be in recreating the sights and sounds, and maybe even thrills, of living on the International Space Station.
Oculus worked with various space agencies, including NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, to bring this dream to (virtual) reality. It actually used real NASA Space Station models and interviewed astronauts who have been to space to give credibility to the experience. In Mission:ISS, you are in charge of routine station tasks, like docking cargo capsules, some mission-critical tasks, and, best of all, taking spacewalks!
But while you try to live out your space fantasies on Earth, someone will try to live out Earth conditions in space. That’s right, the Oculus Rift is going to space! No date has been given yet, but a Rift will be sent to the ISS, courtesy of the French Space Agency (CNES), to let European astronaut Thomas Pesquet try out the VR system. Of course, it will be primarily used to test the effects of zero-g on spatial awareness and balance, but it’s not hard to imagine it will be used for less serious purposes once that’s done.