NASA Wants To Use Unreal Engine 5 To Prepare Astronauts For Mars – IGN
NASA is using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 to create a virtual reality environment that will help prepare astronauts for life on Mars.
The project is still in its early stages, and while Epic Games is better known for its collaborations regarding Fortnite, the developer is teaming up with NASA (alongside the simulation’s creator Buendea) to launch a competition letting developers submit Mars-themed assets and scenarios to be used in the engine.
Using NASA and Buendea’s Mars XR Operations Support System, budding astronauts will be able to simulate aspects of Mars life, from building a home base, performing maintenance, exploring the planet on foot or by rover, conducting detailed scientific research, and more.
NASA is offering a prize pool of $70,000 across five categories in the competition: ‘Set Up Camp’, i.e. building the initial base; ‘Scientific Research’, such as geological surveys; ‘Maintenance’, which includes automated robots; ‘Exploration’, so tools for getting around; and ‘Blow Our Minds’, which is anything that NASA hasn’t thought of yet.
All successful submissions will be added to the Mars XR simulation which, though still in its early stages, already has 400 square kilometres of realistic Mars terrain programmed in, with full Martian days that transition from the orange hues in the day to blue at night.
Realistic weather conditions, Martian gravity, and a handful of existing assets, such as space suits and rovers, are also already built.
Unreal Engine 5 was released in April and developers are already doing some pretty impressive stuff. Working by himself, Lorenzo Drago created an incredibly realistic scene of a Japanese train station that’s almost indistinguishable from real life.
While these ones wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for Mars – though maybe NASA’s “blow our minds” category – a Superman-style flight experience and Spiderman demo have also shown off Unreal Engine 5’s incredible graphics.
Several game studios have also confirmed they’re now developing games using Unreal Engine 5, including the new Tomb Raider game from Crystal Dynamics and the new game in the Witcher saga from CD Projekt Red.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.