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Things to do: Visit the ISS in a full-immersion VR experience

Some things are just better the second time around. Space Explorers: THE INFINITE is Houston’s full-immersion virtual reality exhibit showcasing the international space stations, with audio and visuals captured directly from the ISS, which was first presented to Houstonians in the winter 2021. This summer it’s new and improved and returns for a second run at Silver Street Studios.

While visiting the exhibition (after launching in Houston in 2021), a lot of learnings emerged,” said Eric Albert, CEO of PHI Studios, a company that worked on the presentation and curation of this immersive installation. “We have incorporated some of the feedback we received from visitors on how to improve the experience.”

One of the first new features is a wall right next to the entrance line that features the portraits and biographies of the astronauts that visitors will see later in the experience.

Another addition is the triangular-shaped “elevator” that symbolizes the astronauts’ approach to the rocket before their eventual launch into space, replete with an audio recording from an ISS crew member.

“The audio is Anne McClain describing what she felt as she walked toward the rocket,” Albert said. “There is also an artist who talks about the experience and what people can expect when they enter THE INFINITY.”

Once off the elevator, but before entering THE INFINITE’s main exhibition hall, visitors are fitted with a headset including goggles and headphones…and then it’s on to the ISS.

Additional content has been added since the 2021 iteration, but Albert points out that the entire experience is made up of 60 orbs that activate and tell a story – with crystal clear visuals and recordings taken on the ISS – while the visitors browse the virtual exhibition.

A regular ticket lasts about an hour, including about 30-35 minutes in the VR space, but there is an option to add an additional 10 minutes of VR time for an additional fee.

“There are over two hours of content available in the experience. So technically, you could come back two or three times and never repeat the same experience. You discover completely new content,” he said.

Another addition is an exhibition hall at the end of the exhibit that features a film about the Artemis mission, which aims to put humans back on the Moon for even deeper exploration of deep space.

“You can watch the making of the content (that you just saw in virtual reality)… so how the cameras were built, how the cameras were installed in space and how they were installed by the astronauts. It’s sort of the ‘behind the scenes,’ if you will, of how the content was created and captured,” Albert said.

The installation displays two cameras inside the same room. One of the cameras is a replica of the two cameras still installed on the International Space Station. The second camera is the actual camera used to film outside the ISS.

“When the spacewalk was captured in August 2021, that camera came back to Earth and we’re showing it as part of the exhibit as people leave,” he said.

Click to enlarge

Put on the glasses for a trip to the fantastic International Space Station.

Photo by Melissa Taylor

THE INFINITE still has plans for the future related to Artemis II, so it’s quite possible that one of the next iterations of the installation will have even more content to explore and discover.

“In September 2025, Artemis II will ascend with a few crew members. It kind of prepares them to know the lay of the land, if you will. Our intention is to eventually film Artemis III, the moment when people land on the moon,” he said.

“We hope there will be cameras on the Moon, and then the intention would be to include some of that content in THE INFINITE because right now we’re primarily focused on the International Space Station, but THE INFINITE is about human space exploration,” he added. “If there is a way for us to include some of the content that will be captured as part of the Artemis launches and missions in THE INFINITE, then. That’s certainly our hope.”

Tickets are going as fast as rockets can fly, so grab them while you still can. Space Explorers: THE INFINITE is the closest way Space City residents can get to floating in orbit without ever leaving Earth.

Admission to Space Explorers: THE INFINITE operates from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 11:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday (with a special opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19) at Silver Street Studios at Sawyer Yards, 2000 Edwards Street. The installation is expected to last until the end of June, but depending on demand it could potentially last longer. For tickets or information, visit theinfinitehouston.com. $29 – $38.50.