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Space Missions, Google Expeditions – Everyone’s Rooting for Mars!

If it’s been long while you’ve had a tete-a-tete with science, this might just be a perfect time. A time when technology seeks wider scope than ever. Often perceived as entirely discrete, Technology and Humanities have only walked hand in hand. With grand new pronouncements and evidence of application, new innovations are vying for your attention.

But there’s something that doesn’t have to. Every big economy has allocated a special budget to it: Mars Mission is in vogue.

The latest development comes from UAE where the government seeks talent acquisition through its Space Settlement Challenge. The Space Settlement Challenge looks for ‘innovative high-risk, high-reward projects that would be difficult to fund otherwise’. While this might seem to be an uncanny description to many, it actually speaks volumes about UAE government’s penchant for innovative ideas.

The Mission sparks an encouraging renaissance in the already confident space program by UAE.  Noah Raford will oversee the challenge and is also currently serving as the chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief at the Dubai Future Foundation. The far-fetched vision behind the program becomes evident when Noah describes the country’s keen-eyed aspirations:

“It’s not just engineering solutions. We’re looking for social scientists, designers, and artists to tackle not just the infrastructural issues around space settlement, but also the business models that are going to help us get off the planet.”

The UAE government has planned for the Mars spacecraft to arrive on the planet’s surface in 2021. The year has been strategically planned to coincide with the country’s 50th foundation anniversary. The mission is thoughtfully named’ Hope’ – inducing optimism for a new place for human life.

With such trumpeting missions and the ongoing hustle for space projects, it now seems that a common man can ‘practically’ start wondering about how life on the Mars would be. Interestingly, UAE has also confirmed that it aspires to create a colony on the Red Planet by 2117.

But maybe we don’t have to wait that long. Perhaps we don’t have to fantasize this scenario since many schools kids are actually living it!

Maybe we should explain:

We’re talking about the Google Expeditions and its highly popular field trip to Mars. When we reflect on the idea of Mars mission, it would be a sin to skip mentioning the pioneering efforts by Google to bring Mars in the classroom.

Students worldwide are using cardboard to tour Mars through Virtual Reality. This particular field trip was a strong bet by Google in mainstreaming VR and inducing enthusiasm in kids towards space. The trip shows the terrain on Mars in real depth. The rocks and cliffs are projected out towards the user. The shadows over the surface make the interface even more realistic.

Students who have experienced a trip to Mars by means of Virtual Reality talk eagerly about their experiences. Their young minds are swayed as they walk on Mars, tilt their heads, and examine the space around.

Education is the ‘tipping point’ that will make Virtual Reality a rage amongst the masses. Interestingly, Middle East is recently witnessing staggering advancements in the development of autonomous technologies.

A fair share of this progression is attributed to Google & its efforts in deepening the roots of wearable technology in the region. The tech giant is offering field trips in the ME with the Virtual Reality kit VRXOne.

Google’s Middle East partner for field trips, Munfarid goes on to stress the effect of VR with a ‘go to school program’ – a VR awareness program aspiring to demonstrate 1 million expeditions in the Middle East. Amongst the many field trips being shown through this ongoing program, the ones that are fondly reviewed by the students are of Mars and Antarctica. While this VR trip enhances the students’ curiosity towards space, it also generates a will for them to take up astro-science as an option.

It won’t be wrong to make this statement. Mars mission has taken the world by storm. Also, it has given the hope of stepping on a new celestial body other than the moon.

So is there long time ahead when we’d actually step on the Mars?

Sure. But have we already progressed enough to virtually step on it? Absolutely!

Dr. Sana Farid

Dr Sana is a contributor, general surgeon, emerging women leader, Speaker & Blogger, and CEO at Munfarid Consult. You should follow her on Twitter @drsanafarid