Virtual Visit to Mars

Mars Virtual Reality Software Wins NASA Award

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Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right, and Erisa Hines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, try out the Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset during a preview of “Destination: Mars” at Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Image credit: NASA/Charles Babir

A mixed-reality software that allows scientists and engineers to virtually walk on Mars recently received NASA’s 2018 Software of the Year Award.

OnSight uses imagery from NASA’s Curiosity rover to create an immersive 3D terrain model, allowing users to wander the actual dunes and valleys explored by the robot. The goal of the software, a collaboration between Microsoft and JPL’s Ops Lab, is to bring scientists closer to the experience of being in the field. Unlike geologists on Earth, who can get up close and personal with the terrain they study, Martian geologists have a harder time visualizing their environment through 2D imagery from Mars.

“Feeling like you’re standing on Mars really gives you a different sense of Mars than just looking at the pictures,” said Parker Abercrombie, OnSight team lead. “And I think it’s a really powerful way to bring people to these places that they physically can’t visit.”

“Being able to visualize Curiosity’s drives and virtually walk them before we actually do it with the rover is really helpful to give me a sense of how safe or challenging the terrain will be,” said Abigail Fraeman, a member of Curiosity’s science team.

In addition to studying the geology of Mars, the software allows scientists at any location to “meet” on Mars with avatars that can walk, point and interact with one another.

These virtual field trips help the science team study Martian geology using Curiosity data in a collaborative setting. In the future, OnSight will be adapted for the Mars 2020 rover and could be applied to other extreme environments that are difficult to visit.

“I feel like OnSight has evolved into all these different subpaths,” said Alice Winter, a user-experience researcher for OnSight. “It’s about the scientists, but it’s also about making the platform something that everyone can access.”

The team is working to make a version of the software available to the public. An exhibit highlighting the OnSight experience, ” Destination: Mars,” had a limited run at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in 2016. “Access Mars,” a Google collaboration built on WebVR, was released in 2017 and runs on a desktop browser.

NASA’s Software of the Year of the Year Award honors the best software developed at NASA. “We are honored to receive this recognition and grateful for the investment that the institution has made in supporting this emerging technology,” said Abercrombie.

The following teams were selected for honorable mention:

  • Ames Research Center: NASA Task Load Index (TLX) iOS
  • Glenn Research Center: LEWICE3D
  • Goddard Space Flight Center: NASA Worldview and Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS)
  • Langley Research Center: Assured Geo-Containment for Unmanned Aircraft
  • Johnson Space Center: JSC’s General-Use Nodal Network Solver (GUNNS)

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A screen view from OnSight, the 2018 award-winning software developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in collaboration with Microsoft. OnSight uses real rover data to create a 3D simulation of the Martian environment where mission scientists can “meet” to discuss rover operations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Journey to Mars / Exploration Zones

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NASA is on a journey to Mars, with a goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s. That journey is already well under way. Journey to Mars / Exploration Zones

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BE A MARTIAN! Living and Working on Mars!

marsutMars needs YOU! In the future, Mars will need all kinds of explorers, farmers, surveyors, teachers . . . but most of all YOU! Join us on the Journey to Mars as we explore with robots and send humans there one day. BE A MARTIAN! Living and Working on Mars!

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NASA Releases New Amazing Images Of Mars – Surreal Montage

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Sunset in Mars’ Gale Crater  NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol, from the rover’s location in Gale Crater. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.

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This Martian “postcard” comes after Mars Curiosity drilled its eighth hole on the Red Planet.

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Evolution of Mars

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This is a conception view of the Western hemisphere of Mars with oceans and clouds. Olympus Mons is visible on the horizon beyond the Tharsis Montes volcanoes and the Valles Marineris canyons near the center. Credit: Kevin Gill

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Explore Mars Map

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Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because the reddish iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.

The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth, as is the tilt that produces the seasons. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and second-highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Mars trojan.

There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibility of extant life. Future astrobiology missions are planned, including the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rovers. Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to low atmospheric pressure, which is less than 1% of the Earth’s, except at the lowest elevations for short periods. The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water. The volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 meters (36 ft). In November 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.  Credit: Wikipedia

Explore Mars Map

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Welcome to Mars Trek 

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Explore NASA’s Mars Map

Mars Trek is an application that allows you to view imagery and perform analysis on data from the planet Mars.

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Alien Planets

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The age of the universe is about 13.75 billion years. The diameter of the observable universe is estimated at about 28 billion parsecs (93 billion light-years). As a reminder, a light-year is a unit of length equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres (or about 6 trillion miles).
The Observable Universe consists of the galaxies and other matter that we can, in principle, observe from Earth in the present day—because light (or other signals) from those objects has had time to reach the Earth since the beginning of the cosmological expansion.  Alien Planets

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