VR Experience Review: Apollo 15 Moon Landing

An original shot from the Apollo 15 space mission August 1971

Virtual Reality as a medium gives developers the chance to re-create past events and make them attainable to people who would otherwise never get the opportunity. This could prove to be very useful for educating people on historic events and also help provide memories for those suffering from dementia.

It’s easy to pigeon-hole VR as a means of mere entertainment but it’s already becoming clear that it is likely to permeate many aspects of our society in a variety of ways. Architecture, Art, Education, Journalism and Health Care are just a few examples of industries toying with immersive technologies.

Investors and developers have a responsibility to use the power of VR for something other than just a vehicle for advertising and entertainment. Content that challenges preconceptions, promotes progress, aids the human condition and educates us is vitally important if this technology is going to be worthwhile.

Space exploration as a category of VR experience is one that carries a wealth of value. VR is capable of simulating experience in accordance to scientifically sound information, this is something that could have a profound effect on our collective awareness and how we perceive our place in the universe.

Since the late 60’s with the aid of television broadcasting space exploration caught attention of the masses and created memorable moments for both individuals and families. Through VR experiences like Apollo 15, milestones in history can be viewed from a new perspective, shared and discussed by curious minds.

Apollo 15 was an American space expedition manned by three astronauts that lasting 11 days between July 26 and August 7th, 1971. The expedition became the fourth successful mission to land on the moon and was dubbed at the time as ‘the most successful manned flight ever achieved’.

It was a mission of significant importance at the time, being the first to make use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle which the crew used to explore the moon’s surface, allowing them to travel much farther from the Lunar Module than had been previously possible.

Apollo 15 VR throws you into the dying stages of the four-day journey from Earth, looking on from the perspective of one of those on board the flight. At this point the Apollo Lunar Module has successfully separated from the Command Service Module and is descending on its final destination, the lunar surface. Tilting your head towards the front of the module allows you to see out through a window as mission control counts down until contact is made.

The experience requires you to aim your focus at circular points in order to set off pre-determined actions. The initial circular point sets off the first steps out from the module. The door opens in alignment with a view of a distant Earth and you are required to focus on another point before climbing down the ladder.

Once successfully out in the open, you make your way over to the side of module waiting to unpack the Lunar Rover. Once the assignments are completed the Rover folds out from the side of module and its components gradually attach themselves until the Rover is fully equipped.

After locating the accelerator, you are free to roam the lunar surface at your pleasure. The direction the vehicle moves is dictated by where your attention is focused, if you want to turn the vehicle simply move your head in the desired direction and the rover will turn its wheels to eventually align with your vision.

Despite the noticeable imperfections and lack of depth in some parts of the experience, the ride is somewhat awe inspiring. You are forced to imagine how astonishing the experience would be on a superior VR system and to go further, what it would have been like to experience for real.

The surrounding view encompasses elevations in the moon’s surface, craters as well as the distant Sun and Earth. After roaming around for a while I began being drawn to the earth, moving full speed towards the pale blue dot on the horizon. This rush towards the edge of the moon ended abruptly however, as the wheels of the rover automatically drag away from the invisible barrier.

If there’s one thing that reminds you that you’re in a simulated reality, it’s the point where you realise it is not as boundless as it first seemed. You are free to depart from the rover and explore the terrain by foot, giving you a chance to analyse the details of the experience at a slower pace.

Apollo 15 acts as an excellent demonstration of VR and its capabilities in the field of space exploration. Interactive scenes that delve deeper into the scientific analysis of the mission could further its education value but overall it is a perfect introductory glimpse of what’s to come in this intriguing field of VR.

The application is compatible with Google Cardboard and can be found here: