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News Release

Public could ‘travel’ to space for £40 through new project

06 March 2014 Surrey, University of

Researchers from the University of Surrey have launched a unique campaign that will enable the public to ‘travel’ to space for the cost of a pair of trainers.

Virtual Ride to Space will use cutting-edge virtual technology and a specially designed spacecraft to deliver a three-dimensional, immersive experience, allowing everyone to see what astronauts experience on an ascent to space.

The experience will be created by capturing HD footage of space, via a weather balloon which will carry a cluster of twenty-four HD video cameras to a height of 20km - twice the height of a commercial airplane. During ascent these cameras will capture panoramic footage of the balloon’s journey to space.

Following the flight, specialised software will stitch this footage together to recreate a panoramic view of the space trip. The subsequent space ride will then be viewed using Oculus Rift, a state-of-the-art virtual reality, head-mounted display. The system is designed to deliver high definition 3D virtual environments that can be explored by the wearer, as if they are in space  themselves.

The £30,000 project will be funded by public contributions through the crowd-sourcing funding platform, Kickstarter.

“Only 530 people have ever travelled to space. For most of us it’s a distant and very expensive dream but this project is about enabling the remaining 99.999992% to see the world like never before,” said lead researcher Dr Aaron Knoll from the University of Surrey.

“Ride to Space will give all aspiring astronauts the chance to be a virtual passenger, riding the balloon to space, and unlike other Galactic flights, it won’t cost the earth to be on board!”

The project team are also developing a smartphone application that will allow users to experience the journey using the phones’ built-in gyroscope and accelerometer data, as well as a computer programme that will allow users to experience space via their PCs. 

Investment for Ride to Space is being sought via Kickstarter. Please visit the Virtual Ride to Space page for more information.

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