NASA lets anyone drive around Mars with its new 3D viewing tool

It’s been three years since Mars’ Curiosity Rover touched down on the Red Planet offering scientists and interested enthusiasts a deep look into its expeditions.

In honor of its three successful years, NASA has decided to launch two web-based tools that give absolutely anyone the power to roam around  Mars with the rover.

The first tool released is Mars Trek, a web-based application that takes 50 years of Mars data and compiles it in one place  with high-quality and detailed photos so that citizen scientists can do some independent research.

(Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
(Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Trek comes equipped with interactive maps, as well as the ability to overlay different data sets that were acquired from instruments on spacecraft orbiting Mars and analysis tools. Controlling the application is as easy as playing a game on your keybaord so you can easily move through. As a bonus, the system even allows users to 3D-print physical models of mars’ surface.

The second tool the organization released is Experience Curiosity which allows a user to live a day in the life of the Curiosity Rover. The program provides a 3D simulation of the Red Planet based on actual data that was collected by Curiosity and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), so that users can gain first-hand experience in a day in the life of a Mars rover right from their home.

NASA scientists are actually using the tools themselves. One team has referred to it to help select landing sites for the next Mars rover planned for 2020 and it will also help select sites for the first human exploration missions to Mars in the 2030s.

“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.

“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.


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