FAQ: MarsVR - Virtual Reality Platform To Support Exploring Mars
For the most up-to-date information about the status of our project, check our project updates on Kickstarter!

Who will be developing this project and how did you arrive at the goal number?

James Burk has been leading the MarsVR Program since it was conceived. He's a technical project manager (formerly with Microsoft) and software developer, in addition to being the Mars Society's IT Director since 2011, and a founding member in 1998. He's working with several experienced VR developers including Shannon Norrell (formerly of HP, who was the company's lead VR evangelist and developer) who is featured in our Kickstarter video. We are assembling a world-class "dream team" of people experienced with and passionate about VR, 3-D modeling, photogrammetry, Unity/Unreal programming, and space science. We will begin to make some announcements of these collaborations soon and we are actively recruiting additional people that will be helping us. Please contact us or join the Kickstarter by pledging, so you can follow the project.

We arrived at the Kickstarter goal based on the cost to develop a minimal viable product of photogrammetry at MDRS including 1 square mile of terrain and 5-6 mission scenarios. We have an internal project plan that we will likely update & share publicly once the Kickstarter is over (so that it reflects the exact scope we will be doing based on the final Kickstarter funding.)

Last updated: May 11, 2018 14:35

What are the specific deliverables that will come out of this project, and what exactly will be open sourced?

Great question...

In October (or before) we are committing to open sourcing and releasing the following:

1) A source controlled project (likely built using either Unity or Unreal) that can be downloaded and opened in an end-user copy of the same editor it was created in. Ie, we are not going to fork Unity or Unreal's editors as part of MarsVR. You will be able to download whichever one we use from their website, download our code project from Github (or wherever we have it), open it up, and work on it. (That's the whole point of what we're doing, since this is a research and education tool.)

2) The photogrammetry assets that are created by this project of the MDRS terrain and facilities.

3) The 3-D models of MDRS facilities that are created by this project.

4) An end-user executable will be available to run the VR environment on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and on a PC. This will not necessarily be packaged with #1-#3, but rather will be in available in those device's app stores as a free item.

We will not be open sourcing what we call the "Mission Content" - which is the training applications and scenarios that the MDRS crewmembers will use. We will be selling that via a Steam key to fund the project. However, at some point in the future (such as 1-2 years from release), we will likely open source that content as well, because by then it will likely have outlived its usefulness as a fundraising mechanism, and also we will likely have other versions of the training or other content we are doing that with, at that time.

Source Code Hub We will likely be using github.com as the mechanism for releasing #1 - #3. If we don't use github.com, it will be because we have a better option for people to download & use the VR codebase.

License We are likely to use the GPLv2 open source license to release MarsVR Phase 1's Unity project, and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license for our 3-D models and Terrain models. If we don't use these license options, it will be because we think a different open source license is better (such as MIT license or something similar but also providing less restictive open source licensing.) The point is, we want this to be widely available and able to be used for a variety of purposes by others.

Last updated: May 19, 2018 05:19

How will you deal with latency?

Our phase 1 platform will be a fully immersive VR environment based on the Mars Desert Research Station, and will be running locally on the headset or computer the headset is plugged into. So it won't have any latency. We will be working on some multi-user scenarios as well and will keep this issue in mind as we design them. The ultimate goal is for the astronauts and people back on earth to be working together by exploring the same environment, but not necessarily in real-time. There will be always be some delay as the high-resolution images/scans are sent back to Earth and assembled into a VR environment. But the goal would be that we'd make it easy for this to be accomplished as soon as the data is received on Earth. Another scenario could be that astronauts on EVA are being assisted by astronauts inside the Mars base, using VR. We are thinking about how best to do that as well, as that could be tested at the MDRS.

Last updated: May 06, 2018 11:01

I want the Medal Medallion, but I also want to have Early Access or to be a Core Developer. What do I do?

Select the Medal Medallion pledge level. Then increase your pledge by the amount required for the other two awards. For example, if you want to have Early Access, increase your pledge for the medallion from $50 to at least $150. We will be sure to include you on the Early Access distribution. Same for Core Developer, just pledge at least $450 after selecting the Medallion.

Last updated: May 01, 2018 11:36

What open source license will you be using to open source the MarsVR platform?

We are planning to use the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2 for the core Unity project, and likely a less restructive license such as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike for the 3-D models and terrain models we create. However, we are open to feedback on this decision as it is not 100% final -- if we use other licenses it will be because we want this to be even less restrictive in terms of sharing with the community.

Last updated: May 19, 2018 05:19

Are you really going to open source MarsVR?

YES. We plan to make this a serious research tool for the space science community, and we feel that the best way to do that is to release the complete source of the platform we are building. We will create Mission Content on top of the platform and that will be property of the Mars Society (and available for purchase on Steam), but the foundational technologies for the platform will be open sourced.

Last updated: April 30, 2018 07:25

What technology will you be using to build MarsVR?

We are building on top of the Unity game engine which is currently one of the best for virtual reality applications. We want MarsVR to be cross-platform and able to work on a variety of devices. We are working directly with Unity team members & other experts to use best practices of their platform.

We'll be using professional tools & hardware to create the 3-D models of facilities and terrain models. However, we will attempt to make these widely available. For example, we will look into exporting them out as Blender-compatible asset files.

Last updated: May 19, 2018 05:21

Will I need a VR headset / Google Cardboard to experience MarsVR?

We plan to make MarsVR a cross-platform application, able to be experienced on a variety of hardware. One of our goals is to enable a downlevel experience that can be used on a "normal" high-end computer with a decent graphics card and only a keyboard and mouse as the human interface. But we will also have full support for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. We are also looking at Google Cardboard and other devices, although those likely will come after the first phase.

Last updated: May 19, 2018 05:19

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