A group of kids in Washington D.C. recently got to take a trip to Mars on a real-life magic school bus, thanks to aerospace technology and defense company Lockheed Martin and the virtual reality wizards at Framestore VR Studio. Popular Science reports that the two companies teamed up to transform a yellow school bus into an immersive virtual reality vehicle that simulates a tour of the surface of the Red Planet.

The bus is an impressive feat of engineering: Once children climb aboard, its transparent windows turn opaque and the familiar streets of Washington D.C. are replaced with a view of the surface of Mars. As the bus accelerates, the surface of Mars moves more rapidly past the windows. The entire virtual reality experience was mapped onto the geography of Washington D.C. The developers created a driveable area of 250 square miles, which means you could drive for hours and never see the same sights twice.

On its website, Framestore explains that the bus was designed to get kids excited about science and 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,” Framestore says. “However, we were facing some daunting statistics—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.”

[h/t Popular Science]

Banner image credit: LM Bus, Vimeo