In Brief
Lockheed Martin’s “Mars Experience” school bus uses VR to allow students to travel around Mars; it’s part of the aerospace company’s outreach to try to inspire children to enter STEM fields.

Generation Beyond

A big part of preparing our society to welcome and embrace the future, to accept and seek out its challenges, rather than flee from them, is education. Education—and a healthy sense of wonder.

And the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is combining both in the “Mars Experience” bus, a school bus that provides children with a very curious view outside the windows. No familiar city streets and homes here—just the alien, dusty plains of the Red Planet.

The Mars Experience bus is part of Lockheed Martin’s “Generation Beyond” initiative, “a first of its kind, national educational program to bring the science of space into thousands of homes and classrooms across America.”

It’s a recognition of the extraordinary power of space exploration to inspire and excite the receptive minds of children, and fire them with the thrill of scientific inquiry.

“Our children—the elementary, middle and high school students of today—make up a generation that will change our universe forever. This is the generation that will walk on Mars, explore deep space and unlock mysteries that we can’t yet imagine,” said Marilyn Hewson, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin.

And that’s where the magic Mars bus comes in.

Passengers can view the Martian landscape through the boarded-up windows. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Touring the Red Planet

The Mars Experience bus, with its boarded windows and immersive VR technology, allows its passengers to feel like they’re cruising around the Martian landscape (about 200 square miles) as the bus drives around the more prosaic, terrestrial streets.

Lockheed Martin claims the experience they’ve crafted uses state-of-the-art VR technology, and the pictures they’ve released seem to back this up.

The tricked-out school bus will tour the country, permitting students from many different areas to tour the Red Planet, and hopefully inspiring some to pursue interests and careers in science and space exploration. It kicked off its nationwide tour this past weekend, at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival.

Other projects in Lockheed Martin’s Generation Beyond include an online curriculum for teachers, and a nifty little app, called “Hello Mars,” which provides real-time Martian weather reports, among other things.

More pictures from the Mars Experience can be seen on Lockheed Martin’s Generation Beyond Flickr page.