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Sci-Tech

Virtual-reality startup wants to blast you to the ISS and beyond

Imagine being able to strap on the Oculus Rift face rig and explore the vast, infinite bounds of space. That's what a startup called SpaceVR hopes to accomplish, starting with the ISS.

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SpaceVR wants you to explore the vast, endless universe with an Oculus Rift. Screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET

Dream of space travel? Think it would be awesome to hop aboard a shuttle bound for the International Space Station? A new project in the works from startup SpaceVR looks to take you to outer space without all the hassles of zero gravity and having to find someone to feed your cat.

The premise is simple. SpaceVR wants to send a 360-degree, 3D, ultra-high-definition camera rig into space to capture images of the universe for people stuck here on Earth to explore. Its first mission is an effort to bring the rig to the International Space Station, where it will capture both the inside and outside of the ISS so people can really imagine themselves as astronauts looking out on the stars and planets surrounding Earth.

SpaceVR's goal is for everyone to be able to experience the overview effect, the concept that when we see the Earth in context -- as a fragile, pale blue dot in an endless sea of space and time -- the conflicts that tear us apart as a society fall away and we gain a sense of interconnectedness. The term was first coined by Frank White in the book "The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution." White is an adviser to the project, as is US astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

"We hope to bring the deep, life-changing experience that all astronauts feel, the overview effect, to the average person," Ryan Holmes, SpaceVR's founder, CEO and chief product architect, told Crave.

But can someone who hasn't actually been in space experience this phenomenon? It's a bit difficult to imagine, but virtual-reality headsets like the Oculus Rift do create an immersive experience that could potentially trigger this deeper understanding of the universe.

"The top priority experience is seeing the Earth from the outside of the ISS," Holmes told Crave. "To see all the stars. To see the Earth spinning below for two orbits. This way we can see the night side as well as the day side."

The Oculus Rift or other virtual-reality headsets aren't required to view the images that will be taken from SpaceVR's cameras. Viewers would also be able to see the images on a smartphone, tablet or computer, though the experience would likely be much better on virtual-reality headsets.

The company is currently looking to raise seed money to get its project off the ground and into space, and will then turn to crowdfunding. The ISS is just the first place SpaceVR wants to explore, and it hopes to complete its journey to the ISS before the end of 2015. After that, SpaceVR's goals become much more ambitious, as the company seeks to bring its camera rig to the moon by 2017, to an asteroid by 2022 and all the way to Mars by 2026.

Admittedly, it will be a while until we can test this out for ourselves, but as a space geek I seriously can't wait to see what SpaceVR has to offer later this year.