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NASA’s 3D Mars Base Simulator


A 3D base simulator, called Project Eagle, was created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and independent game studio Blackbird Interactive (BBI) and it turned out incredibly realistic. In the simulation, users can go through its multi-level Eagle Base where you can see previous and current colony construction, energy and habitation projects with infographics which explain their design and how they function. The simulation is set 100 years into the future where 5500 colonists are already living there among the regolith.

The imagined colony is in the Gale Crater, so it’s a bit south of Mars’ equator on the Eastern hemisphere and that is also the same place NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover landed on August 6, 2012. Interestingly, the simulation actually has a monument set outside the colony commemorating Curiosity. Its topography and geography are based on the actual map data collected by Mars satellites and rovers which are then given to BBI. So, with that data, users can experience sunsets, sunrises, virtual days and nights. This area is also close to the Elysium Planitia which is where NASA’s InSight lander arrived recently.

Several unique features can be experienced in the simulation. The primary region is the “Dome Complex” which is where a very large biodome made possible because of Mars’ low gravity, called the Eagle Dome, is located. It gives Earth-like ecosystem for the colonists. The dome is protected from radiation but a little bit of light is allowed to come through just so the colonists don’t experience claustrophobia. The environment also allows to walk free without a spacesuit on. In order to support the dome and other areas where colonists are living and working, several ponds of algae are created that are supposed to generate oxygen and be a source of food supplements.

Outside of the dome are condo-blocks which are primary residences for human occupants. Material from Mars have been used to created the condo-blocks and are connected to a system of underground tunnels. They are also protected from radiation so the occupants can live freely without spacesuits. In order for the progress to be realistically shown in the colonization effort, legacy “hab” pods and an old launch pad are present, together with little blurbs about the colony’s development history.

Power is provided through nuclear fission reactors, Earth providing the environment with the Uranium every few years on resupply missions. Water treatment facilities connected to the wells on Mars are there alongside a few satellite dishes creating a communications array where Martian internet has been established.

Project Eagle was first introduced in 2017 at the annual D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit hosted by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. In the presentation hosted by Dr. Jeff Norris, Mission Operations Innovation Lead of NASA’s JPL, the game studio was encouraged to create the game be more than just entertainment for the audience. He said art was an inspiration for an appealing vision for the future of space exploration. “Great art doesn’t just move us as individuals – it can move entire societies,” he stated on stage. He then made a connection with the originator of ‘’space art’’, artist Chelsey Bonestell, and the public’s directly inspired support of the later Moon missions. The simulation is now available to use and can be found on Steam.

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