Now everyone can get a taste of what scientists see on the red planet.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory collaborated with Google to produce Access Mars, a free immersive experience that be accessed with a computer, mobile device or virtual reality/augmented reality headset.
Using imagery from NASA’s Curiosity rover, users can explore the desert terrain while poking around nooks and crannies. The program features four notable regions: Curiosity's landing site, Murray Buttes, Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills. The rover’s current location on Mt. Sharp will be continually updated as new imagery comes in.
The software is adapted from a similar program used by NASA scientists to study Martian geology.
"We've been able to leverage VR and AR technologies to take our scientists to Mars every single day," said Victor Luo, lead project manager at JPL's Ops Lab, which led the collaboration. "With Access Mars, everyone in the world can ride along."
The experience was crafted by pairing Curiosity's imagery and scientific data with WebVR, an open-source virtual reality software that be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
Visitors can learn more details about Curiosity’s experiments such as photos of digging sites, soil mineral compositions and even a selfie the rover took so scientists could monitor wear and tear.
"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."