Lockheed Martin Launches Virtual Field Trip To Mars

The Lockheed Martin Mars Experience Bus kicked off a national tour at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Image Credit: Colorado Space News

The Lockheed Martin Mars Experience Bus kicked off a national tour at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Image Credit: Colorado Space News

September 1, 2016 – NASA has a goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, but to get there – and beyond – we’ll need a skilled workforce.

Lockheed Martin has supported every NASA mission to Mars over the last four decades and is currently developing technologies like the Orion spacecraft and Mars Base Camp to support deep space human exploration. Lockheed Martin understands the urgency of inspiring future engineers, scientists and innovators to pursue STEM careers.

“Imagine witnessing the moment when that first explorer leaves footprints in the red dust of the Martian surface,” said Stephen Frick, former NASA astronaut and a director at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, California. “This is more than a dream. We are already planning to send humans to Mars in our lifetime, and we need the talents and enthusiasm of a new generation of explorers.”

These new explorers are in school right now – in fact, the first astronauts to arrive at the Red Planet are probably in middle school this year. To inspire these students, Lockheed Martin has created a one-of-a-kind virtual reality experience. The Mars Experience Bus is the first immersive VR vehicle ever built, replacing school bus windows with computer monitors to simulate a trip to Mars. The bus doesn’t actually move, but once students board the bus, reality is suspended as they are jostled in their seats while being “driven” along 200 square miles of the Martian surface – and the scenery is spectacular!

The Mars Experience Bus will be traveling around the country to bring students and their families this unforgettable experience. The tour kicked off this past Saturday at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where families enjoyed the Mars Experience Bus and other interactive activities from Lockheed Martin. The bus also visited the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, as well as Colorado schools.

Next the bus will travel to California, where it will visit the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland from September 9-11. Rides will be available during museum opening hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Other public Bay Area locations have been pre-determined and will be announced in September.

“We are so happy to welcome the public to visit the Mars Bus and appreciate Lockheed Martin as part of Chabot’s national network that brings current science to our community,” said Adam Tobin, executive director of the museum.

Lockheed Martin will be announcing more dates throughout the Fall and encourages schools and families to participate in the program. The bus tour is part of a larger Lockheed Martin initiative called “Generation Beyond,” designed to bring the science of space into homes and classrooms across America to engage students in grades 6-8 and excite them about the possibilities of pursuing STEM subjects.

The program, available at no cost, includes an online curriculum for teachers and families, with standards-based, digital resources such as lesson plans, educator guides and family activities. The resources introduce a wide variety of STEM-focused careers in space exploration, compare and contrast differences between life in space and on Earth, and illustrate the challenges of a future Mars mission. Students can also visit the site to enter a Mars video challenge, or download Lockheed Martin’s “Hello Mars” app which will allow them to check real-time weather data on Mars.