Astronauts now train for space with video games

NASA increasingly relies on video game technology to introduce low gravity to new astronauts.

NASA teams up with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to create an immersive, “mixed reality” version of the International Space Station. The system features two parts:

  • The virtual space station, which allows astronauts to familiarize themselves with the layout and instruments of the orbiting space station. (The real space station is about as big as a soccer pitch.)
  • A physical component, consisting of a robotic crane that flips harnessed astronauts around to replicate near-weightlessness.

It’s not the first time NASA has partnered with video game companies: With the Unity game engine, NASA recreated the solar system in a series of apps.

Virtual training is useful for NASA as it looks to send humans to Mars and back in the 2030s.

Matthew Noyes, a NASA software engineer, says immersing future astronauts in virtual environments keeps them sharp. “At a fundamental level, training our astronauts to explore space is a lot like a game,” says Noyes.