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Samsung's new VR simulator takes you to the Moon

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Next year, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that put humans on the Moon. Since then, we’ve created supercomputers that fit in our pockets, electric cars, the internet as we know it and … popsockets. Not all of our accomplishments carry the same weight, obviously.

But Apollo 11 and the men and women who made it possible, not to mention the astronauts who risked their lives to see out the plan — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — have never been topped in the public’s imagination.

To recapture that sense of wonder, NASA is teaming up with Samsung to let people experience what it’s like to walk on the Moon as part of Samsung’s A Moon for All Mankind virtual reality experience. Of course, Samsung isn’t doing this out of the kindness of its heart. The whole thing is basically an advertisement for the company’s Gear VR and Galaxy smartphones.

You can sign up for free on Samsung’s website, then head to Samsung’s 837 Experience in Manhattan, to check it out. But you’ll need to set aside a good chunk of time.

Strap in

That’s because you’re not just walking up to a few bungee cords and sent off to bounce around. No, Samsung wants you to get in on the experience. I walked through a sliding door made up to look like an airlock and watched a quick instructional video explaining what to do and what not to do during session.

After that, I stepped into a harness that gave me quite an impressive wedgie and pulled on a mock flight suit. Samsung personnel then put a sensor pack on my back to track my movements in VR. After that, I popped on a faux space helmet with Samsung’s Gear VR built in that somehow fit over my giant head — and I was set.

Samsung set up a large space in the center of its 837 location to serve as the Moon jump area. The floor is covered in mats in case you forget how to jump, while the ceiling has four straps that connect to your harness. And no, it doesn’t help with that wedgie.

Once Samsung personnel managed to get me hooked up to the simulator, I pulled down the VR headset and was on the moon. Samsung says it worked with NASA to ensure the A Moon for All Mankind experience is as close to NASA’s own offering as possible.

The advertising hits you over the head

The feeling of simulated near-weightlessness was slightly disconcerting since the VR headset prevented me from seeing what was happening around me in the real world. But once I got used to it, I was bouncing across the lunar landscape with ease.

Then came the moment when I was to plant my flag on the Moon’s surface. But, since this is a massive Samsung ad, I didn’t get to plant the stars and stripes, and instead plunged a flag promoting Samsung’s Galaxy phones into the grey rock. That was … just a little too much advertising for me. I mean, I get it. This is an attraction at a Samsung store. But come on, let me at least plant the right flag. It almost felt disrespectful.

That said, for a short simulator, A Moon for all Mankind is worth checking out. You’re not going to learn anything about Apollo 11, and you might end up thinking that Samsung landed on the moon instead of Neil Armstrong. But it’s a fun way to pass the time nonetheless.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn