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What it’s like to take a virtual walk on Mars

Virtual walk on Mars
Aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle, explores NASA’s Curiosity rover and its surroundings on Mars in virtual reality at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

I’ve been to Mars to kick the tires on NASA’s Curiosity rover – and you can take that trip as well.

Not in reality, of course, but in virtual reality: The tours of Curiosity’s surroundings near Mount Sharp are being provided courtesy of Seattle’s Museum of Flight during this weekend’s SpaceFest gathering.

There’s a whole program of activities, built on the theme of “Ladies Who Launch.” Speakers include Nathalia Holt, the author of “Rise of the Rocket Girls”; South Korean astronaut Soyeon Yi; women from Boeing, Vulcan Aerospace, SpaceX, Planetary Resources and Blue Origin; and Amy Shira Teitel, who’s the author of “Breaking the Chains of Gravity” and the blogger behind Vintage Space.

The virtual reality tours are sure to be a hot ticket as well. In cooperation with Valve, the VR/gaming company based in Bellevue, Wash., the museum made the Mars experience available during last year’s SpaceFest. Hundreds took turns wearing an HTC Vive headset and pacing carefully around a virtual Red Planet.

“We put 300 people on Mars before NASA did,” exhibit designer Peder Nelson joked.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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