Buzz Aldrin and Reggie Watts Send Messages to Mars


NASA experiments with virtual reality as a communication tool to combat the negative psychological effects of isolation on astronauts for future missions to Mars.

The Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) is a NASA research program simulating planetary surface missions. After initial tests at four and eight months, the program’s most recent “mission” lasted an entire year on a desolate, dormant Hawaiian volcano to simulate life on Mars.

NASA virtual reality communication

Every day, from August 2015 to August 2016, the crew of six prepared food from only shelf stable ingredients, exercised, researched, conducted geological field work carried out by humans or robots, tested equipment, and tracked resource utilization of food, power, and water.

According to NBC, The crew members reported challenges they faced were interacting with such a small group of people for a long period of time, rationing limited resources and a plumbing malfunction that left them bathing with buckets for two weeks.

Any communications between the crew and the outside world came with a 20-minute delay to simulate communicating from deep space. If you want to hear about the experience from the crew themselves, here’s a link to their blog posts during the mission.

Message to Mars

NASA contracted 8i, a VR startup specializing in volumetric human capture, to help astronauts cope with the psychological beating they’re going to take from long term isolation when the time finally comes to send humans to the red planet.

They created a series of inspirational holographic message from Buzz Aldrin and Reggie Watts. Aldrin shared his personal experience and vision for sending humans to Mars, and Watts performed an improvised song, beat boxing and cracking jokes.

8i NASA buzz aldrin hologram

“As humans embrace the extraordinary commitment to leave earth and make Mars their home, virtual reality will be a very important way of staying in touch,” said Dr. Buzz Aldrin. “What could be more stimulating to students, scientists, and political leaders on Earth than to experience life on another a planet, and for the astronauts journeying to Mars to receive messages from back home? I’m honored to leave my message behind for these courageous men and women who will go down in history in a way that no one ever has before.”

8i and Time Inc.

Yesterday at VR on the Lot in Hollywood, 8i and Time Inc. announced a partnership to bring the Message to Mars holograms to LIFE VR and Time.

vr on the lot message to mars

“In 20 years when mankind takes the bold leap of journeying to Mars, it’s hard to imagine that human communication will be as confined to the flat screen,” said Linc Gasking, cofounder and CEO of 8i. “We’re excited to enable future generations of astronauts to communicate with loved ones, relive memories, and experience archived messages from historical figures like Buzz Aldrin through photorealistic 3D holograms that feel as if they’re in the same room. Buzz is now a pioneer of both outer space and virtual space.”

We’ve written before about 8i’s mission is to make virtual reality human. It’s an easy one to get behind. It’s also nice to see future practical applications of VR take shape. You can read more about the project from Linc on Medium along with a touching recount of one of the first humans they recorded as a hologram.

About the Scout

Eric Chevalier

Eric Chevalier co-founded VRScout after a decade of content marketing in sports, entertainment and gaming. When he isn't sandy, Eric is scouring the streets of Los Angeles in pursuit of the best new storytellers from Hollywood to Silicon Beach.

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