Mars VR experience, now possible from your home
Since 2015, NASA’s scientists have made use of virtual reality (VR) technology to closely follow the Curiosity Rover’s activity on Mars. Today, anyone with a mixed-reality headset can avail of a Mars VR experience.
The tech giant Google partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Access Mars. This immersive experience is freely available for mobile and desktop as well as VR gear. VR peripherals are widely available for Android and Apple devices making Access Mars easily available for the public.
The software’s development team built Access Mars on WebVR, an open-source platform with data collected by JPL. The idea was to allow access to as many devices as possible.
Developers adopted the use of OnSight software. JPL uses this software for planning rover drives. Image and video feeds from Curiosity provide data that maps out the Martian terrain. This has allowed NASA scientists to study the Geology of Mars in a dynamic and intuitive manner.
Access Mars allows anyone with a reasonable internet connection to experience a guided Mars VR tour. The program gives a brief explanation on the Curiosity rovers functions. The tour also covers the rover’s Mars landing in 2012. Access Mars users can explore four sites on the planet which include: the Curiosity landing site, Marias Pass, Murray Buttes, and Pahrump Hills. These locations have proven to be critical to the Mars Science Lab mission. Users can also see the mission’s ongoing progress as the Rover’s latest location is regularly updated.
A closer look at Martian geography
Users can zoom in on scientific points of interest at some of these locations. One of JPLs scientists, Katie Morgan, gives an explanation on what evidences have been found regarding the planet’s habitability. This provides users with an expert voice expounding on the possibility of habitation on Mars.
At present, Access Mars provides a unique experience for users of walking across the vast red Martian Desert alongside Curiosity.
Lead Project Manager at JPL Operations Lab, Victor Luo mentioned that “Immersive technology has incredible potential as a tool for scientists and engineers,” Luo said. “It also lets us inspire and engage the public in new ways.”
You can check out the project at https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/