From The Daily Galaxy:
One of the early trends of the 21st Century is the sense that science and space exploration and its expression in film, video, news and events will dominate popular culture as the Internet has during the past decade.
Leading this cultural shift is Google. The search-giant has announced several major initiatives with NASA that have positioned the company as the Space Age leader in information-delivery.One of Google’s first projects was to partner with NASA’s Ames Research Center to produce high-resolution 3D maps of Mars and the Moon in the same detail as Google Earth. Users will experience a virtual flight over the surface of the Moon or through the canyons of Mars.The collaboration will also seek to make NASA data available on the internet, including live weather maps and forecasts, plus real-time tracking of the International Space Station and shuttle. Google will also assist NASA in managing the vast amounts of information held across the agency’s network of computers.As the first in a series of joint collaborations, Google and Ames will focus on making the most useful of NASA’s information available on the Internet. Real-time weather visualization and forecasting, high-resolution 3-D maps of the moon and Mars, real-time tracking of the International Space Station and the space shuttle will be explored in the future.”This agreement between NASA and Google will soon allow every American to experience a virtual flight over the surface of the moon or through the canyons of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at Headquarters in Washington. “This innovative combination of information technology and space science will make NASA’s space exploration work accessible to everyone,” added Griffin.
I saw this one coming last year, but I didn’t think it was going to happen so soon. I was thinking around 2010. That’s what I get for assuming I suppose.
I see the pros and cons to this scheme. The pros are educating people about the Universe and to show that there are many wonders in Nature other than our little Earth.
The cons are that people are going to say, “Why do we need to fund space exploration when we can just Google it up and we can be there without being there?” Then you have to go to the trouble of explaining to them that without actual probes being there, like in the case of Mars, we wouldn’t be able to construct an accurate VR sim of it.
Not to mention telescopes. Even with advanced terrestrial telescopes, the space ones are soo much better. And the people who don’t normally give a crap about space exploration love the Hubble Telescope, which is one of the reasons it’s getting an upgrade. You still need some reality to base your VR world on.
Actually, the idea of virtual reality space exploration isn’t new. I remember reading about it a few years back. (link)
Some of us won’t be content to sit at home and do the VR thing though. It’s hard-wired into us to touch, feel and taste things up close and personal, so there’ll always be someone willing and able to fund, build and personally travel to other worlds.
It’s our “primate” nature!