Facebook and National Geographic, partnering with the Mars Society, held the first-ever Live 360 video event at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah this past Tuesday to mark the end of the first half of the Mars 160 mission, while also helping to promote NatGeo’s currently-running MARS global event series.
Seven members of the Mars 160 crew began an 80-day simulation at MDRS in late September, carrying out scientific testing, research and field exploration in the Mars-like terrain of the Utah desert. The second half of the Mars 160 expedition will commence in June 2017 at the Mars Society’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in northern Canada.
After weeks of planning by Facebook, NatGeo and Mars Society staff, the Live 360 video broadcast began on December 13th at 1:00 pm MST as crew members emerged from the MDRS station’s airlock door. The hour-long program started with host Cara Santa Maria, a prominent science journalist and podcaster, describing the Mars 160 mission, the use of the new live-streaming technology and welcoming the Mars 160 crew “back to Earth.”
The Live 360 event included interviews with members of the MDRS crew, as well as commentary from three leading space experts – John Grunsfeld, former NASA astronaut and Associate Administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, author and science communicator, and Stephen Petranek, author of “How We’ll Live on Mars” – all of whom participated off-site via special projection.
In addition to the interview segments, people watching the Live 360 event via Facebook had access to a 360-degree view of the area in and around the Mars simulation facility and were able to participate in a behind-the-scenes visit to MDRS, seeing the station’s newly-renovated work and living quarters and watching two crew members suit up for an EVA, which included driving across the Martian landscape near the habitat in an electric rover.
“This use of new technology by Facebook and National Geographic brought a sizable number of virtual visitors to our Mars simulation station, allowing them to see the important work being done by our MDRS crew. We were very honored to be part of this unique and far-reaching event,” said Michael Stoltz, Mars Society Director of Media & Public Relations.
At its high-point, nearly 30,000 viewers were participating in Live 360 at MDRS. Upon the conclusion of the live-streaming broadcast, National Geographic posted the full one-hour video on its Facebook page. At present, the historic video segment has over 2.5 million views!
To watch the MDRS Live 360 video recording, please click here.