NASA VR tours offer a 360-degree look at America's crewed spaceflight program
NASA has released a series of virtual reality (VR) tours that give viewers an inside look at the ongoing effort to bring crewed spaceflight and launch capabilities back to American soil. The videos walk users through key locations where the next generation of habitable spacecraft – SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner – are being built.
The Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is a NASA initiative that aims to end America’s reliance on the Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft and launch vehicles for placing astronauts in orbit, and eventually beyond. Both Boeing and SpaceX are currently developing crewed spacecraft under the program, and unfunded assistance is being given to the Sierra Nevada Corporation and Blue Origin as they pursue the development of their own human-rated spacecraft.
The agency has released seven 360-degree video tours centering around key aspects of the Commercial Crew Program. The series begins by laying out the need for the CCP, and its primary contractors.
The second video take users on a tour of SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, California. Here, the ambitious company is hard at work building hardware for the program, including the Crew Dragon and the support section that attaches to the spacecraft and contains vital systems, also known as the bus.
Next up is a tour of the Kennedy Space Center building where Boeing’s CST-100, or Starliner, is being built. The video shows users the crew capsule along with its service module, and gives explanations of how the two will function.
The final four tours provide valuable insight on the asteroid training process, details on the rockets that will carry crew as they depart from the Kennedy Space Center, while the final video is made up of highlights taken from the rest of the series. All of the tours can be viewed in full 360 using a VR headset.
The videos have been released in the wake of rising tensions between NASA and its contractors regarding delays to the crewed spaceflight program.
“I am looking forward to the SpaceX announcement tomorrow," tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the eve of a SpaceX update on the company’s Starship program. "In the meantime, Commercial Crew is years behind schedule. NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It’s time to deliver.”
Pop on your VR headset and watch the first video of NASA’s tour of the Commercial Crew Program below.