Want to follow the path of the Curiosity rover on Mars? Well, you can now do that by just using a mixed-reality headset. So, get ready to virtually explore the Martian landscape.
Recently NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has joined hands with Google to produce Access Mars, a free immersive experience. This new programme is available for all. You can use it on any desktop, mobile device or virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) headset. It also includes mobile-based virtual reality devices on Apple and Android, said JPL.
The experience has been tailored from JPL’s OnSight software, which assists NASA scientists in planning rover drives. They even hold meetings on Mars using this. The images are all taken from the ones snapped by NASA’s Curiosity rover. It lets users roam around the actual dunes and valleys that have been explored by the spacecraft itself. OnSight has been available to the JPL scientists since 2015 and it has made studying Martian geology as spontaneous as turning just one’s head and walking around, said JPL.
Now with Access Mars anyone and everyone will be able to take a guided tour of what those scientists experience. All one needs is an Internet connection and you are ready to explore the Red Planet. A simple walk through the terrains of Mars explains what the Curiosity rover does. It also details the dramatic landing of the rover in 2012.
Users can also visit four critical sites that have been significant to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission — Curiosity’s landing site, Murray Buttes, Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills.
At the first three locations, users can even zero in on objects of scientific interest, such as rock outcrops and mud cracks. Katie Stack Morgan, a JPL scientist on the MSL mission, will explain the evidence of habitability Curiosity has unearthed.
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“We’ve been able to leverage VR and AR technologies to take our scientists to Mars every single day. With Access Mars, everyone in the world can ride along,” said the lead project manager at JPL’s Ops Lab, Victor Luo. JPL’s OPS Lab had piloted the collaboration with Google.
“Immersive technology has incredible potential as a tool for scientists and engineers. It also lets us inspire and engage the public in new ways,” added Luo.