NASA and Microsoft team up for Xbox ‘Mars Rover’ game

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, July 19, 2012 14:29 EDT
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A screenshot from NASA's "Mars Rover Landing" game on Xbox 360.
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With significant budget cuts for its Mars program looming, NASA is looking to shake things up a bit, and they’ve turned to the video game makers at Microsoft to help them do it.

Available now on Xbox Live, “Mars Rover Landing” uses the mostion-sensitive Kinect camera to let users interact with the motions of the Mars rover, due to reach the planet’s surface on August 5.

Speaking to USA Today, Jeff Norris of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that the game coveys “some authentic details” from the mission, which they hope will give people “a taste of what we are all going to be going through” during the landing sequence.

The rover mission, which comes at a price tag of about $2.5 billion, is speculated to be one of NASA last big budget Mars missions for quite some time. President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget cuts NASA’s funding overall to $17.7 billion, down by roughly $59 million, and emphasizes the development of commercial spaceflight and space exploration technology while cutting planetary exploration by 20 percent.

That makes NASA’s new frontier — interactive public relations — even more important.

Inklings of what was to come could be seen in the dramatic five-minute video NASA published in June, featuring scientists and engineers explaining the “crazy” idea they have to get the rover onto Mars. But the real highlight of that video was a rendering of the “seven minutes of terror” they’ll all experience trying to land the craft, in a carefully choreographed sequence that looks to the untrained eye like something out of “Star Trek,” except in this case it’s real.

But a video game? That one came as a bit of a surprise. Officials revealed the game at a press conference on Monday, announcing their partnership with Microsoft had already paid off and that it would be available within the week. That game is now out, offering players a chance to experience those same “seven minutes of terror.”

NASA also announced that the actual landing of the Mars rover would be broadcast over Xbox Live on August 5, and that the collaboration was just part of greater efforts to partner with the video game industry to promote interest in and enthusiasm for science and space exploration.

This video is from a NASA press conference, demonstrating “Mars Rover Landing” for the Xbox 360.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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