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originally posted by: OblivionGate
a reply to: links234
As for the OP, I believe the main draw to physical exploration is the feeling of actual achievement. We humans have gazed upon Luna for perhaps 2 million years in our modern form, and I would be willing to bet that the awe many people feel when viewing Luna is nothing compared to what Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, etc. felt when actually landing, and physically being on a world no one thought possible to travel to a handful of years before. As far as VR goes, it could be a great tool for exploration for the lay person, but our understanding of the universe and it's physical properties cannot be known in great detail without tangible evidence.
originally posted by: Saint Exupery
In principle, you could map an area at high resolution, and then create a digital model that you could wander around in. This has actually been done with JPL's Mars probes, starting with the Pathfinder in 1997. The problem is, the illusion is shattered as soon as you go see what's on the other side of a rock/hill/whatever (or just using your VR gloves to pick-up a rock to see what's underneath) and finding nothing there because there is no data.
Here is an interesting paper - written after the Pathfinder experiments - about using immersive environments for navigating the subsequent Mars rovers; Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.