SXSW: Buzz Aldrin Uses Virtual Reality to Communicate His Vision for Sending Humans to Mars

Viewers can stand alongside the legendary astronaut on a virtual rendering of the Red Planet.

Legandary astronaut Buzz Aldrin will premiere a virtual reality production that was created to outline his vision for how to send humans to Mars, Tuesday at SXSW.

Presented with VR firm 8i, Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars is a strong example of the educational potential of the VR format, as well as its ability to immerse viewers in places where they can’t otherwise visit.

“While the moon landing was a monumental achievement for humanity, there’s no greater mission than mankind’s journey to Mars,” said Aldrin, astronaut on the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 missions, in a statement. “I have a plan for creating a human settlement on Mars, and thanks to virtual reality and…technology from 8i, we now have an exciting new way to communicate this plan with the world and to leave my legacy behind for future generations of aspiring space travelers.”

In this engaging project, the viewer is face-to-face with Aldrin, who explains his vision for how humans will get to the Red Planet. While he’s talking, the viewer is standing with him in settings including virtual CG renderings of the Moon and Mars, and the viewer also gets a close-up look at a proposed spacecraft.

Shortly after its SXSW premiere, Buzz Aldrin's Cycling Pathways to Mars will be distributed by Time Inc. to its Time and Life VR platforms for viewing on various VR systems including HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.

Aldrin was recorded on 8i’s greenscreen stage in Los Angeles using its proprietary “volumetric capture” technology to give him a hologram-like feel in the VR experience. The environment was created by 8i in collaboration with interactive firm Loot and with visual effects by FuseFX. Directed by Daniel Schechter, Lex Halaby and Guil Rambelli, the experience was developed in partnership with L.A.-based startup Soylent.

“Virtual reality has enormous potential to educate and inspire, and we know Buzz will spark the imagination of young people who will one day journey to Mars and begin a new chapter for mankind,” said Steve Raymond, CEO of 8i, which has bases in Los Angeles and Wellington, New Zealand. “Our entire team has been thrilled to work on this project.”