On the third anniversary of the Mars landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover, NASA has released two new online apps that will allow Earth-bound explorers to take a trip to the mysterious Red Planet. Mars Trek uses real data generated from 50 years of NASA exploration to create detailed visualizations, giving citizen scientists a chance to examine the planet’s surface. Experience Curiosity puts users in the driver’s seat of the one-ton rover as it ranges across a 3D Mars simulation based on actual data gathered from Curiosity and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Mars Trek is not just a game for space fans, but also a tool for scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This tool has opened my eyes as to how we should first approach roaming on another world, and now the public can join in on the fun,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

The NASA team has been using the web app to help select possible landing sites for the agency’s Mars 2020 rover. It will also be used to select candidate sites for NASA’s human exploration mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Related: Curiosity rover shows Mars has a daily water cycle like Earth

In Mars Trek, interactive maps can be overlayed with data generated from instruments aboard spacecraft orbiting Mars and a range of analysis tools can be used to measure features on the planet’s surface. Exportable topography allows 3D printing enthusiasts to print models of the surface of Mars. In Experience Curiosity, users can gaze at Mars through each of the rover’s cameras and also manipulate the tools onboard.

“We’ve done a lot of heavy 3D processing to make Experience Curiosity work in a browser. Anybody with access to the web can take a journey to Mars,” said JPL’s Kevin Hussey.


Via The Verge

Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS