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Virtually blast off to space with an ISS VR experience and SpaceX’s new video
Most of us terrestrial beings will probably stay on Earth without ever venturing outside its atmosphere, but more and more VR experiences are using cyberspace to show us what it’s like in zero-G.
Immersive documentary series The ISS Experience will (with the right headgear) virtually put you on board the space station as it orbits our planet, while SpaceX has tweeted out a video that lets you see what it will be like to board the Crew Dragon (no headgear required). The ISS Experience, which is currently in the process of filming, just wrapped its first VR scene on Friday. The Crew Dragon video is clickable right now.
The ISS Experience is a collaborative effort between TIME, Felix & Paul Studios, space services firm NanoRacks and nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). Besides exploring the inside and outside the space station, it will also take you on what is the first cinematic VR spacewalk ever. The spacewalk seemed like a farfetched idea at first. Félix Lajeunesse, creative director at Felix & Paul Studios, suggested it be filmed with the Canadarm2 robotic arm that built the space station itself, and the idea soared.
Just getting a regular camera around in a spacecraft has its own issues. You can’t exactly let it float around in there.
"Building a camera that is ready for space is a challenge," Lajeunesse told Space.com. "We started from an existing camera called the Z CAM and built a custom, made-for-space motorized rig."
Lajeunesse and his team had to support a team of astronauts as they configured the Z CAM on a mounted platform, with the motorized rig controlling its rotation. Rotation is everything when scenes need to be captured in stereoscopic 3D. It needs to have an astronaut’s POV to really make everyone back on Earth feel as if they really are hanging out in microgravity. Much easier said than done in space.
“There [are] some pretty critical operations being done by the astronauts in space where a big camera could be in the way," the filmmaker said. “It is a balancing act between our creative desires and the reality of the logistics in space.”
Speaking of flying to the ISS, that is what astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be doing for real on the SpaceX Crew Dragon this summer. The video puts you right on its new 85-foot crew access arm, which SpaceX installed back in August, at Launch Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
As the arm slowly revolves, you can see the spacecraft from its window and at the end of the passageway. Behnken and Hurley will walk across that arm to get on board for the Crew Dragon’s first crewed flight ever.
Before the Crew Dragon launches humans into space, it will undergo its first crewed flight test, otherwise known as Demo-1, next month. It will meet the ISS in low-Earth orbit before plunging back through the atmosphere and into the ocean. While SpaceX has had experience with launching uncrewed Dragon flights to the ISS since 2012, Demo-1 is a first because the Crew Dragon is loaded with everything you need to keep astronauts alive, including life support and emergency launch abort systems. The Demo-1 capsule is actually what you’re seeing in the video.
The ISS Experience won’t hit theaters for a while, but you can always track the progress of the Crew Dragon on SpaceX’s Twitter while you wait.