Finally: You now can explore the surface of  Mars without ever leaving Earth. 

NASA released a  360-degree video from the surface of Mars Monday that lets viewers poke around the Martian surface. It's an eye-opening experience that makes it hard not to think about the possibilities of touring the planet in virtual reality someday soon. (It may not be as entertaining as the recent Matt Damon film The Martian, but at least you'd be seeing the real planet.)

NASA first published the video on Facebook on January 30, but the way the Curiosity Rover's still images were stitched together gave the video a fish-eye appearance that made the planet unrecognizable, TechCrunch reports. The revised version released Monday lets you take in the view of Mars's Namib Dune and Mount Sharp in a way that makes it feel like you're standing on the planet. 

Check out the click-and-drag video below for a mini virtual tour of Curiosity Rover's surroundings.

Though the Curiosity Rover is not equipped with a 360-degree camera that can shoot video for virtual reality, future Martian expeditions that include a VR rig could produce the first virtual experience that lets humans explore the planet located more than 48 million miles from Earth.

Entrepreneurs like  Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are keen to make private space travel and interplanetary life a reality, but as Inc.com reported, a recent audit found that NASA is not prepared to handle the risks of sustaining life in space. It remains to be seen whether private companies will fare any better.

Being the first company to offer virtual reality tours of Mars, the Moon, and Venus, however, may prove to be a more attainable goal. Fast-moving companies creating VR content include Magic Leap, which has raised $592 million from investors like Google, and Jaunt VR, which has raised at least $100 million in funding.

Published on: Feb 9, 2016