Brand Experience and Activation > Use of Promo & Activation




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To inspire the first generation that will travel to Mars, we brought the Red Planet closer than it has ever been before via the first-ever group virtual reality experience. We transformed a classic school bus into an immersive, moving field trip where passengers can see, hear and feel what the surface of Mars is like, and do so as a shared experience without headsets or goggles.

Our first riders, D.C.-area students, thought they were going on a normal field trip. But as the windows transformed to reveal the Martian landscape, we surprised them with a field trip unlike any other.

In creating this first-of-its-kind technology that brings Mars to Earth, we invited participants to interact with and share in Lockheed Martin’s vision of the future of deep space travel.


Over the course of six months, we designed the first-ever headset-free group virtual reality vehicle experience. We started by creating 200 square miles of Mars’ surface using Unreal 4. We then mapped the Mars surface to the real streets of D.C, and showcased geological features, the Curiosity rover, a realistic base camp and a massive Martian dust storm.

And then we bought a school bus.

We completely gutted the bus to install our custom-built switchable electric glass screens that transitioned from transparent to opaque, and paired them with 4K transparent LCD displays. We then re-outfitted the bus to make it look and feel like any other school bus.

By integrating our virtual Mars surface, custom screen technology, GPS, 3-axis accelerometer, magnetometer, and laser surface velocimeter, the bus became our virtual reality “headset”. When the bus moved, the surface moved; and when the bus turned, we turned on Mars too.


Our virtual reality Mars experience debuted at the USA Science & Engineering Festival and was a huge hit. Over 2,500 attendees took the trip to Mars, even waiting up to an hour and a half to try out the revolutionary experience.

Festival-goers weren’t the only ones to take notice. Since our inaugural field trip on April 15, videos featuring the virtual field trip have been viewed over 2.5 million times and we have generated over 120 million impressions.

The day after launch, the bus was a trending topic on Facebook for more than 24 hours, and social conversation spread to over 50 countries. Major news outlets like NBC, ABC, and Fox have covered the story, as well as leading technology and innovation sites like Engadget, PSFK, Futurism and Digital Trends.

Even Silicon Valley is taking notice—the bus was highlighted for its groundbreaking use of VR at the 2016 Samsung Developers Conference Keynote.


Most virtual reality experiences take place in a silo, where the user puts on a headset to have an immersive, but isolated experience. To show our audience what it would be like to visit the surface of Mars, we created the first shared virtual reality activation—one that could be experienced and enjoyed as a group.

Through our innovative use of virtual reality technology, we connected with our audience in a way no other brand has ever done, and in doing so, encouraged participants to share in Lockheed Martin’s vision for the future of deep space travel.


With the first manned mission to Mars slated to occur within the next two decades, equipping students with the skills to pursue STEM education is more important than ever. And we knew it was our job to help inspire their sense of possibility and ignite their passion for the critical skills needed to get humans to deep space.

However, we were facing some daunting statistics—though STEM careers are expected to increase dramatically over the next 10-20 years, recent studies have shown a decline in American students’ interest in and preparedness to pursue STEM in higher education.

We knew that just telling students they could be the first person on Mars wasn’t enough. We needed them to believe it. So we reached out to those future scientists, explorers, and pioneers—elementary and middle school students—and showed them, their parents and teachers, and the world just how close our future on Mars really is.


Space is currently experiencing a cultural Renaissance to rival the excitement of the Space Race. Companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Mars One, and movies like Gravity and The Martian have recaptured the general public’s imagination and fascination with space. But it’s not all science fiction. With their unmatched heritage and vision, Lockheed Martin is making travel to Mars and deep space a reality.

Humans will set foot on Mars in the next twenty years, making STEM education and ensuring the passion of young people to pursue careers in science and engineering more important than ever before. So we set out to inspire the next generation of deep space explorers and dare the world to expect more from Lockheed Martin’s deep space program.

How? Develop a visceral experience that would show them what it would actually be like to visit Mars.

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