Not everyone can become an astronaut, but you can at least pretend to be one through the magic of virtual reality.
The good news is that the London Science Museum is offering such an experience, allowing visitors to relive British astronaut Tim Peake’s recent descent from the International Space Station in VR.
Thanks to a collaboration with Atlantic Productions and developers at Alchemy VR, the Science Museum has recreated the journey made by Peake, when he landed in the Kazakhstan desert in June 2016 after a six-month stint in space.
“Some technologies do move on, and virtual reality is changing at a remarkably rapid place, and because of that we are absolutely delighted that we have the absolute cutting edge VR technology here,” said Jonathan Newby, Deputy Director and COO of the Science Museum Group, during a speech to press.
“It tells the story of not only space exploration, but also adventure and individual endeavour,” Newby added.
Using Samsung Gear VR headsets, museum visitors are now able to see what it’s like being inside the Soyuz TMA-19M space capsule used by Peake during the descent. This means getting stuck into a first-person view of the 400km journey where you’ll experience slowing down from a speed of 25,000km per hour, safe in the knowledge that you’re actually sitting in a plush pod-chair in South Kensington.
Fortunately, TrustedReviews had an early chance to try out the 12-minute VR experience, and can confirm that landing a spacecraft at high-speed seems to be as pants-soilingly terrifying as you’d imagine.
Speaking at the launch event, Anthony Geffen, CEO and executive producer at Atlantic Productions, said: “There’s not a frame that is totally real, but it is real. You’re in the experience. It’s not like a feature film where you can get away with it being almost accurate.”
He continued: “The big moment was for when we put in on Tim’s head and he said: ‘
Geffen described how his team had to use 100 computers over a month-long experience to render the experience in 5K. Of course, museum visitors won’t actually see the experience in 5K, but closer to 2.5k due to the particular type of virtual reality headsets used.
Tim Peake is particularly famous in the UK for being the first British astronaut to stay on board the ISS. He returned to earth in June 2016 with two other astronauts on a 7-hour journey aboard the Soyuz. Since January 2017, the actual Soyuz capsule used in the return journey has been on show at the London Science Museum. It will remain there until September, when it will move up to the museum’s sister site in Bradford.
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What experience would you like to try out in virtual reality? Let us know in the comments.