Experience outer space while keeping your feet on the ground

09 February 2022

A 15-minute ride to the edge of space costs up to $500,000, but a University of Canterbury (UC) Commerce student has found a way to experience outer space using a Virtual Reality (VR) Headset for a fraction of the price.

  • Mekdim Tesfaye

    University of Canterbury Business School student Mekdim Tesfaye participated in the UCE Summer Startup Programme 2021/2022.

Many people dream of going to outer space, but it will be a while before the average person can afford this experience. As an alternative, young entrepreneur Mekdim Tesfaye has developed a fresh approach and thanks to a scholarship to join the UC Centre of Entrepreneurship’s (UCE) Summer Startup programme, his startup, Oasis Orbital Systems, is well under way.

“We’ve started by collecting unique 360 footage of the Banks Peninsula from an aeroplane, that a lot of locals won’t have even seen before. Everyone who’s experienced the higher perspective in VR have been amazed,” Mekdim says.

“As we capture higher altitude footage, people will have the opportunity to experience the entire astronaut experience without the weightlessness.”

He says anyone will be able to observe Earth live from an outer space perspective, gaining a new shift in awareness of the impact that humanity has on our precious world. 

Mekdim says that various players within both the tourism and VR industries have expressed interest in his initiative already.

Actuality Ltd Chief Operating Officer Mike Coker had been looking at the possibility of creating virtual reality experiences for people who are physically disabled to enable them to explore New Zealand. Naturally the pair found alignment in their work when they met during ‘Speed Mentoring’ as part of the UCE programme.

Mekdim says since their initial meeting they’ve formed a partnership and Mike’s development team has been working on including additional information in the VR footage, which his son helped capture.

“There has been an overwhelming amount of support from the local aerospace community,” he says.

“Christchurch is the hub of aerospace in New Zealand, and we have a really strong community that’s made up of people from all over the country in the aerospace industry.

“Start-ups such as Dawn Aerospace and Kea Aerospace are all based in Christchurch because of the ecosystem here, and thanks to the conversations had within UCE’s Summer Startup Programme, I’ve been able to get heaps of industry advice.”

The next step for Mekdim is to launch a weather balloon that will capture footage of the South Island of Aotearoa - the first time this has ever been done in New Zealand. He plans to launch the balloon before the end of the month.

Mekdim is graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing this April and gained aviation experience in his role at Air New Zealand as an Aircraft Maintence Engineer before he began his degree at UC.

About the University of Canterbury Centre of Entrepreneurship Summer Startup Programme

The UCE Summer Startup Programme is a 10-week intensive accelerator programme that gives students an opportunity to fast-track their commercial ventures and social enterprises. 

Throughout the Programme scholarship recipients engage with more than 60 experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts who act as speakers, mentors, and coaches. 

UCE hosts an annual Summer Startup Showcase, where there is an opportunity to hear the top pitches from the year’s cohort and celebrate their mahi. 

Pitches will be presented on stage and livestreamed to a virtual audience, join the livestream on Thursday, 10 February at 5.30 pm. Register here to receive your link.

Media contact:

  • Email: media@canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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