Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Driving on Mars

Last month NASA launched a new rocket to Mars. The Mars 2020 mission will deliver the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone to the red planet. The Ingenuity drone will be used to scout for points of interest which the Perseverance rover will then study. Perseverance is equipped with a number of scientific instruments which it will use to investigate the Mars environment.

Perseverance won't be the only rover on Mars. The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012, initially for a planned two year mission. Eight years later Curiosity is still operating. During its eight years on Mars Curiosity's cameras have captured over 200,000 images. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab have turned those photos into a 3D model which is used to study the surface of Mars.

JPL and Google have now joined forces to create Access Mars so that you can also explore the surface of Mars in 3D. Access Mars uses 360 degree panoramic imagery to virtually place you on the surface of Mars. You can move around and visit important locations and learn more about the planet from a narrated tour provided by JPL Mission Scientist Katie Stack.

A number of 360 degree panoramic images of Mars, created using imagery from the Curiosity Rover are also available on 360cities. The screenshot above comes from a 360 degree panorama captured at a patch of flat outcrop called 'John Klein', which was selected as the site for the first rock-drilling activities by Curiosity.

If you open any of the 360cities panoramas of Mars you can navigate around the image just as you would in Google Maps Street View. If you have a virtual reality headset you can even view the panorama in VR.

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