Travel into Space for just $90? It's Virtually True.

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Having been alive throughout the entirety of the space age from Telstar and Sputnik (I was nine or ten) to Neil Armstrong to privately funded space travel, I've often day-dreamed about going into space myself.  The closest any of us can get now is to pony up $6 or $7 million and join a Russian crew on the International Space Station, or we could make a deposit of $100,000 or so to join other 530 passengers hoping to fly (briefly) into space on Virgin Galactic.  Once they work the kinks out of the craft and systems.

It appears we may soon be able to pay a mere $90 for the experience of virtual space travel as proposed by researchers from the University of Surrey in England.  I can afford $90, and I'm sure virtual travel is a whole bunch cheaper.

For a writer of science or space fiction, having a personal experience in space would add a nice dimension of description and understanding.  I mean, it's easier to describe being in an avalanche if the writer has been in one, not that I'd ever go looking for this just to write about it.  

Here's the story from Science Daily:

Virtual Ride to Space

Researchers have launched a unique campaign that will enable the public to ‘travel’ to space for the cost of a pair of trainers. Virtual Ride to Space will use cutting-edge virtual technology and a specially designed spacecraft to deliver a three-dimensional, immersive experience, allowing everyone to see what astronauts experience on an ascent to space.

The experience will be created by capturing HD footage of space, via a weather balloon which will carry a cluster of twenty-four HD video cameras to a height of 20km -- twice the height of a commercial airplane. During ascent these cameras will capture panoramic footage of the balloon's journey to space.

Following the flight, specialized software will stitch this footage together to recreate a panoramic view of the space trip. The subsequent space ride will then be viewed using Oculus Rift, a state-of-the-art virtual reality, head-mounted display. The system is designed to deliver high definition 3D virtual environments that can be explored by the wearer, as if they are in space themselves.

The £30,000 project will be funded by public contributions through the crowd-sourcing funding platform, Kickstarter.

"Only 530 people have ever traveled to space. For most of us it's a distant and very expensive dream but this project is about enabling the remaining 99.999992% to see the world like never before," said lead researcher Dr Aaron Knoll from the University of Surrey.

"Ride to Space will give all aspiring astronauts the chance to be a virtual passenger, riding the balloon to space, and unlike other Galactic flights, it won't cost the earth to be on board!"

The project team are also developing a smartphone application that will allow users to experience the journey using the phones' built-in gyroscope and accelerometer data, as well as a computer program that will allow users to experience space via their PCs.

For more info, click here:  Virtual Ride to Space
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Story Source: Materials provided by University of Surrey. "Public could virtually 'travel' to space for $90 through new project." ScienceDaily


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