HoloLens takes you on a guided tour around Mars

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Curiosity driver and JPL scientist Erisa Hines acts as a holographic tour guide in Destination: Mars, an AR experience powered by Microsoft HoloLens(Credit: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

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Visiting Mars is at best a 34 million-mile journey, but the next best thing is now as close as Cape Canaveral. Until January 1, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will play host to Destination: Mars, an augmented reality experience powered by Microsoft's HoloLens that takes guests on a guided tour of Mars locations. The program was born out of OnSight, the scientific tool created through a collaboration between Microsoft and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

OnSight was first announced in January 2015 as a way for scientists to explore Mars as a virtual 3D environment seen through Microsoft's AR headset, HoloLens. It was later used as the basis for the VR app Mars 2030 for Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift.

Like earlier OnSight projects, Destination: Mars builds its landscapes from data and images sent back from the Curiosity rover, and lays them over the user's real location. Virtual visitors to the Red Planet will be guided through key areas and discoveries by a hologram of Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, and Erisa Hines, a scientist at JPL and a driver of the Curiosity rover.

"The opportunity to get up close and personal with a walk on Mars is so exciting and we can't wait for our guests to experience the thrill of it," said Therrin Protze, COO of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. "We're particularly honored to offer Destination: Mars, offering our guests an experience they can't have anywhere else: a real look into NASA's work on Mars."

After opening this week, Destination: Mars will run until January 1, 2017. Entry is included with the US$50 price of admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, although bookings are required on the day. Check it out in the video below.

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