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NASA setting up crazy VR Mars ride with a 90-foot drop

Visitors to the Super Bowl Live festival in Houston will get to travel to the Red Planet via virtual reality, complete with a big drop back to Earth.

Football... in spaaace.


Super Bowl LI is set to take place next month in Houston, home to NASA's Johnson Space Center and arguably the headquarters for human spaceflight for decades. The space agency is taking advantage of the opportunity with a virtual-reality ride that will take football fans and space nerds alike on a journey to Mars.

At "Future Flight," riders will be able to strap on VR goggles for a simulated trip to Mars and back.

The ride is just over two minutes and uses actual footage from Mars. It ends with the 90-foot (27-meter) free fall simulating the return from Mars to Earth, conveniently landing on the 50-yard line of NRG Stadium just before the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons.

If that sounds a little intense for your taste, there will also be an option just to try the virtual-reality experience without the nine-story drop.

NASA is looking to promote its journey to Mars, which currently includes plans for a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s.

Also on display at "Super Bowl Live," a nine-day festival in Houston leading up to the big game on February 5, will be models of NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket engines as well as replicas of the Curiosity rover and James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2018 and usher in a new era of astronomy.

NASA's surface Space Exploration Vehicle concept was also spotted on Houston freeways on Monday, making its way toward the festival site.

The presence of NASA will surely help bolster the case I like to make that today's NFL is a paradise for nerds. Did I mention NASA will also be promoting its own hashtag, #spacebowl? The NFL-space crossover kicks off (see what I did there?) in Houston starting Saturday.

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