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First the metaverse, now the universe: Meta and the Smithsonian let you walk on the moon

From 4 May 2022, members of the public will be able to follow in the footsteps of world-renowned astronaut Neil Armstrong and co. and walk the surface of the moon—in VR, that is. The ‘Moonwalk’ exhibit comes as Meta teams up with the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—as part of its FUTURES ‘festival’, which will include “immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs, and artefacts of the future.”

This partnership is also part of Meta’s ‘Immersive Learninginitiative in which it is investing $150 million “to help develop the next generation of metaverse creators [and] fund high quality immersive experiences that transform the way we learn.” But what does the exhibit include, and how does it work? Here’s all you need to know.

Timed with the 50th anniversary of the legendary Apollo missions, participants will immerse themselves by donning a Meta Quest 2 headset to take a, let’s say more affordable, trip into space with a chance to actually ‘walk’ on the moon’s surface. But that’s not all. Witnessing the lunar buggy, the horizon stretching out in front of them, the rover exploring extraterrestrial terrain and even being able to kick up moon dust will all be part of the immersion. “It has literally never been possible, unless you were an astronaut, to experience the moon this way,” said Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts + Industries Building (AIB) where the exhibition is being held.

Using cutting edge technology known as photogrammetry—a special way of extracting 3D information from 2D images—over 7,000 archival images from NASA have been stitched together to create this extraordinary experience. Combined with audio recordings from Apollo  landings and an incredibly detailed 3D scan of the Apollo 11 spaceflight’s command module, visitors will feel as if they are real astronauts on a lunar mission. Yep, all those childhood dreams of being a cosmonaut are about to become reality—well, virtual reality.

This isn’t the first time the AIB has held exhibitions in relation to the Apollo missions either. In 1969, just weeks after the first moon landing, the institution displayed a rock from the surface of the natural satellite for all to see, which must have been utterly mind-blowing for those at the time. Now, 53 years later we will finally be able to see what all the hubbub was about (and perhaps even why all the billionaires are star-obsessed). 

Thanks to Meta’s technology and new initiative, this kind of experience may become more and more frequent, perhaps even entering the classrooms of the future. This new way of visual learning is sure to expand the horizons of how future generations are taught and is an extremely exciting prospect on all accounts.

‘Star Trek’ actor William Shatner will allegedly go to space with Jeff Bezos

In his seven decades of acting, William Shatner became a cultural icon for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise. Now, he’s about to set a new record in his career after TMZ reported on Saturday 25 September that the actor will be heading off to space alongside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October 2021. Aged 90, Shatner will be going where no man of his age has gone before.

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According to TMZ, the actor will be on board Bezos’ New Shepard capsule for the 15-minute civilian flight while the mission will be filmed for a documentary. As of now, it remains unclear exactly who else will be joining the Star Trek star on the flight but it is safe to assume that the line-up won’t be disappointing, considering the individuals who received a ticket to Blue Origin’s first mission earlier this year. It is also unsure what amount Shatner is paying in order to be a part of the latest space mission.

This news comes as little surprise as it has been reported simultaneously that Bezos, who once called Blue Origin his “life’s most important work,” has doubled the time he devotes to his space company. According to CNBC, the billionaire has long dedicated Wednesday afternoons to either updates or discussions at Blue Origin—meetings that were in person before the COVID-19 pandemic and have been by phone since. However, within the past month he has added Tuesday afternoons to his schedule as well, inside sources told CNBC.

Bezos’ alleged doubled effort comes at a critical moment in Blue Origin’s history. The company is locked in a somewhat petty court battle over NASA’s award of a multibillion-dollar lunar lander contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, while a key customer of its BE-4 rocket engines is becoming increasingly vocal after years of delay, and its first orbital rocket is similarly years behind schedule.

The added time spent on Blue Origin partially illustrates how Bezos is renewing his focus on the company. For example, one person told CNBC that he used to hold a companywide question-and-answer session with employees every year but had stopped doing so. “Now he is turning his attention back to Blue Origin,” writes the publication.

One thing is for certain, if Shatner does end up going to space with Bezos in October, get ready to see Elon Musk trek into the stars with someone even more emblematic—think Mark Hamill or Morgan Freeman.