With major innovations helping us get closer to space, one project from the University of Surrey is going one better: using virtual reality to launch their very own trip into the stratosphere. Dr. Savan Chhaniyara takes us on a journey of technology and predictions.
Traditionally, manned space missions have primarily been driven by governments with the aim of developing the necessary technologies to carry humans safely to space and back. In addition to these there are two further motivations. Firstly, to learn about space environments and their effects on the human body and secondly the exploration of space.
The work of NASA, and the new innovations by Virgin Galactic show us all back down on earth what is really out there: The Apollo project, for example, set several major human spaceflight milestones and still continues to this day.
These missions have inspired generations of people interested in space research and the idea of space tourism. This most definitely extends to me, Savan Chhaniyara, as well as to my team mates Aaron Knoll, Thomas Frame and Thomas Harle. On a number of occasions during our tea breaks whilst working on our respective space research projects at the Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey, we would share our concerns around the lack of opportunities for people to experience travelling to space.
As of January 3rd, 2013, only 530 people have ever travelled to space. Surprising to know, perhaps.
However, this is still an exciting time. The first commercial passenger flight on Virgin Galactic is not far away, allowing more people than ever before to experience life outside of our own planet.
Competition in the marketplace will in time reduce the cost of space travel flights - but this may take another 20 years. In the meantime, we believe that virtual reality (VR) technology will bring us closer to a realistic space travel experience at an affordable price.
"Imagine you are sitting in your arm chair hooked up with a headset - whilst operating a robot on Mars!"
Our main aim for this project was to open up opportunities to the public to experience space travel at a competitive price. We will use video footage collected by 24 GoPro cameras that are carried to the edge of space (20km) by a high altitude balloon to create a virtual immersive journey.
It has been exciting times since we first launched our VR2Space Kickstarter project, getting attention wherever we go with our ideas. Sadly, our past Kickstarter campaign didn’t quite reach its goal in terms of the target: but this was just the beginning.