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Aerospace firm launches ‘magical school bus’ that takes children on a virtual reality trip to Mars to inspire a new generation of space explorers

The magic school bus has leaped from the pages of childhood fiction and onto the physical road. The Aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, recently created a school bus that simulates the experiencing of coasting along the planet Mars. The national initiative is trying to bring “the science of space into thousands of homes and classrooms across America.”

The Mars Experience gives the illusion that occupants are touring Mars by projecting moving images of the red planet via a 360-degree VR video inside of the blacked out windows of the school bus. The aerospace company says the VR experience is based upon the same software used for “the most advanced video game.” As the bus moves, it gives children the illusion that they are traveling across Mars. It is intended to give kids a glimpse of what it is like to scavenge across the Martian terrain.

The Mars tour encompasses 200 square miles of the Martian surface and is part of the companies “Generation Beyond” initiative, which encourages children to seek careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The bus will be making rounds across the country. It began its nationwide tour this past weekend at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival.

An out of this world field trip

Lockheed Martin also debuted the Hello Mars smartphone app, which provides real-time updates of the weather on Mars obtained by the Curiosity Rover, as well as advice on how to survive the night on the red planet.

“Our children — the elementary, middle, and high school students of today — make up a generation that will change our universe forever. This is the generation that will walk on Mars, explore deep space and unlock mysteries that we can’t yet imagine,” Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chair, president, and CEO, said in a statement.

Generation Beyond’s curriculum is tailored for middle school teachers and students specifically. The program has lesson plans and activities that educators can reference to help make classroom topics centered on STEM subjects more interesting.

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