NASA has announced two new online virtual exploration tools for those looking to get a better look at our neighboring planet. Mars Trek and Experience Curiosity are web apps which allow you to get down and dirty with the Red Planet.
Mars Trek is an interactive map experience. Using NASA’s pioneering data on Mars, you can view highly detailed, quality images. The app can actually be used to measure the many features of Mars’ surface, and can even be used to 3D print specific features. Many of the craters and mountain ranges can be identified by name on Mars Trek, and tools are available to measure distances, elevation, position, and more. NASA is already using Mars Trek as a way to plan for future missions. They are currently using it to find a spot for the coming Mars 2020 Rover to land. The future use may include planning for a safe human inhabited base.
Experience Curiosity is a way to experience life just as the Mars Curiosity Rover does. The program takes you on a virtual ride with the Rover, and you have full control over the Rover’s gear and cameras. They create a 3D Mars which is updated with data taken from the Curiosity mission, as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data. NASA has done plenty of 3D processing in order to let one drive the Curiosity around in a three dimensional space.
Even though the first astronauts are probably not landing on Mars for another 15+ years, these new programs are another step to reaching that goal, as well as being helpful to engage the public in what is going on on Mars. The chances of any of us reaching Mars in our lifetimes is slim, but at least we can get a little better acquainted over the internet.