Ever wonder what it's like to orbit the Earth aboard the International Space Station? You may have seen videos or photos of the long corridors and beautiful pod-bay windows of the ISS that frame our world from more than 200 miles up. But for aspiring astronauts, there's still much that's left to the imagination.
Thanks to ever-growing advancements in virtual reality (VR), the experience of taking a spacewalk or exploring the ISS now can be done from the comfort of terra firma. Los Angeles-based VR firm Magnopus, in collaboration with NASA and the European Space Agency, has released a free virtual reality experience called "Mission:ISS." Available for the Oculus Rift, the software allows you to explore the ISS, conduct space missions and even step outside for a spacewalk.
You can see an example of the experience by clicking on the video below. To gauge how immersive the environment is, use your mouse to move the video window around.
Magnopus took great pains to create an accurate simulation of space station life, including conducting countless hours interviewing previous ISS astronauts and spending time at the VR Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The result is a VR experience that is quickly ranking with some early adopters as one of their favorites.
"Such a humbling experience," wrote one user on Facebook. "I have never thought I would know what the view in space is really like, and now I know. My favorite thing to do is the sky walk. I can just stay there and look at the Earth below for an hour. We're so so small."
In an effort to get more students interested in space science, Oculus launched a beta program to deliver the "Mission:ISS" experience and Oculus Rifts to high schools around the U.S. Additionally, the company is moving ahead with plans to get a Rift aboard the ISS later this year.
"The Rift will be used for the first time in orbit by European astronaut Thomas Pesquet to test the effects of zero-gravity on human spatial awareness and balance using software developed by the space agencies," according to the company's website.
If you have an Oculus Rift ready for lift-off, you can download a free copy of "Mission:ISS" here.