Center for Space Medicine

Using Virtual Reality Games To Keep Astronauts Mentally and Physically Healthy for the Mars Mission


There are many unknowns for the mission to Mars. What we do know is that the mission will be physically and psychologically demanding, and that astronauts will be exposed to extreme conditions during the 30-plus month mission. These individuals will be dealing with the psychological issues of isolation, confinement and a lack of privacy. (Everyone needs their space, even in space!)

Houston-based firm Z3VR aims to address the challenges of isolation and confinement through virtual reality. Josh Ruben, Z3VR's CEO and co-founder, and his team are developing a virtual reality (VR) game for space. The game could improve the physical fitness and mental well-being of astronauts. The platform is capable of reading biometric data pulled from the augmented and VR devices. The data is processed and then turned into useful information: cognitive load, stress, attention, engagement and emotional states.

Sweating in Space

On average, astronauts exercise two hours per day. While this might sound like an excessive amount of physical activity, it’s essential in microgravity to prevent muscle and bone deterioration. Plus, exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression and negative moods while improving cognitive function. Z3VR plans to integrate exercise equipment that is currently flying on the ISS with biosensors and a heart rate monitor.

As astronauts complete their daily exercise routine, they can now enhance that same activity while playing games inside of VR. It's an opportunity for astronauts to play, learn and create all while staying physically fit.