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Take a walk on Mars in your own living room!

20 October 2017

NASA scientists can follow the path of the Curiosity rover on Mars using a mixed-reality headset to virtually explore the Martian landscape. Now you can too!

Access Mars allows any member of the public to explore the discoveries of NASA's Curiosity rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory collaborated with Google to produce Access Mars, a free experience available on desktop and mobile devices and VR/AR headsets. This also includes VR devices on Apple and Android. 

Adapted from JPL’s OnSight software, which assists scientists in planning rover drives and even holding meetings on Mars, the VR experience uses imagery from NASA’s Curiosity rover to map the terrain and allow users to walk the actual landscape explored by the spacecraft. 

Access Mars offers a simple walkthrough explaining what the Curiosity rover does and details its landing in 2012. Users can also visit four critical sites: Curiosity’s landing site; Murray Buttes; Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills. The rover’s location is also periodically updated to reflect the mission’s ongoing progress.

At the first three locations, users can zero in on objects of scientific interest, including rock outcrops and mud cracks. Katie Stack Morgan, a JPL scientist on the MSL mission, will explain the evidence of habitability Curiosity has unearthed.

"We've been able to leverage VR and AR technologies to take our scientists to Mars every single day," said Victor Luo, lead project manager at JPL's Ops Lab, which led the collaboration. "With Access Mars, everyone in the world can ride along."

Access Mars was created using data collected by JPL and built on WebVR, an open-source standard, in an effort to expand access to immersive experiences. Google's Creative Labs team was looking for novel uses for VR and encouraged developers to experiment using its tools.

Video courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

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