New online tools bring NASA’s journey to Mars to new generation of explorers

NASA is unveiling on the three-year anniversary of the Mars landing of Curiosity rover, two new online tools that open the strange terrain of the Red Planet to a new generation of explorers, appealing the public to help with its expedition to Mars.
Mars Trek, a free web-based application that provides high-quality, detailed views of the planet using real data from 50 years of NASA investigation and allowing astronomers, citizen researchers and students to study the Red Planet’s structures.

A screen capture from NASA’s new Experience Curiosity website shows the rover in the process of taking its own self-portrait. Users can view Mars through the eyes of the rover, using the window in the lower, right corner. The control panel at left helps users navigate the rover itself, and relive some of its actual expeditions on Mars.


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Experience Curiosity permits viewers to journey along with the one-ton rover on its Martian missions. The program reproduces Mars in 3-D based on actual data from NASA’s MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) and Curiosity, offering users first-hand experience in a day in the existence of a Mars rover.
A team of NASA using already Mars Trek to aid in the choice of possible landing sites for the agency’s Mars 2020 rover. The application will be used as part of NASA’s newly-announced process to examine and choose candidate sites for the first human exploration mission in the 2030s to Mars.
Jim Green, director in Washington of NASA’s Planetary Science Division said “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”. “Our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great progress on the journey to Mars. Together, humans and robots will pioneer Mars and the solar system.”
Mars Trek controls interactive maps, which include the capacity to overlay a variety of statistics sets created from devices aboard spacecraft orbiting Mars, and exploration tools for determining surface features. Stock keyboard gaming controls are used to maneuver the users across Mars’ surface and 3-D printer-exportable topography permits users to print tangible models of surface structures.
Experience Curiosity also uses real science records to produce a realistic and game-ready rover model based entirely on real mechanisms and completed commands. Users can operate the rover’s tools and view Mars through each of its cameras.
Hole at ‘Buckskin’ Drilled Days before Landing Anniversary
Kevin Hussey, which manages and operates the Curiosity rover, manager of the Visualization Applications and Development group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said. “We’ve done a lot of heavy 3-D processing to make Experience Curiosity work in a browser. Anybody with access to the web can take a journey to Mars,”

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover drilled this hole to collect sample material from a rock target called “Buckskin” on July 30, 2015, about a week prior to the third anniversary of the rover’s landing on Mars. The diameter is slightly smaller than a U.S. dime.


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The adventures of Curiosity rover on the Red Planet began in, 2012 in the early morning hours of Aug. 6, Eastern Time, when a landing technique named the sky-crane maneuver placed the rover in the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. From this crater, the rover began exploring its new home, realizing it had landed near a very old lakebed sprinkled with organic material because billions of years ago, fresh water would have flowed into this lake, offering propitious circumstances for microbial life.
“At three years old, Curiosity already has had a rich and fascinating life. This new program lets the public experience some of the rover’s adventures first-hand,” said Jim Erickson, the project manager for the mission at JPL.
NASA has been on Mars for 50 years with robotic explorers, and traditionally August has been a very busy month for exploration of the planet. Viking 2 craft was placed into orbit around Mars 39 years ago on Aug. 7, 1976. This event is the second successful landing on the Martian surface. MRO was launched on Aug. 12, 2005 and now is in mission orbiting Mars. Tuesday, Aug. 4 marked the eight-year anniversary of the launch of the Phoenix mission to the north polar territory of Mars.
NASA’s rovers and orbiters have adjusted the way we look at Mars and permit continued scientific discoveries that one day will concrete the way for astronauts to explore and discover the entire Red Planet.

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