Most of us will (sadly) never be able to visit the ISS in person and will have to make do with photos and videos of the orbiting lab. If you have an Oculus Rift, though, you have a far more immersive choice: a true-to-life simulation you can visit in virtual reality. Oculus has teamed up with NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency to create the Mission:ISS VR experience. You can explore the virtual station like you're actually in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), but you can do more than that, as well. So long as you're using an Oculus Touch controller, you can dock incoming spacecraft, go out on spacewalks and even perform mission-critical tasks like a real crew member.
Hollywood visual effects firm Magnopus made sure the virtual ISS is as close to reality as possible by basing its design on NASA models and astronaut descriptions. It also got some help recreating the spacecraft's details from NASA Johnson Space Center's VR Laboratory. Mission:ISS is completely free and is now available from the Oculus Store. But since very few people have a Rift, Oculus has also launched a pilot program in the US that gives high school students the chance to try the experience for themselves.
In addition to announcing Mission:ISS, the company has also revealed that it's sending a Rift headset to the actual space station through the French Space Agency. European astronaut Thomas Pesquet will use it to test the effects of zero G on our spatial awareness and balance. Its results will help us understand how our body could respond to future long-term missions that will take humans farther than LEO and the moon.