NASA has released two interactive experiences to bring the wonders of Mars to the public. The first is an interactive map of the Perseverance rover’s path across the Red Planet, and the second is a 3D experience that allows Earthlings to see Perseverance’s environment in multiple checkpoints along its journey so far.
NASA developed these experiences to bring the public closer to the ongoing action 246 million miles away. The three-dimensional one, called Explore with Perseverance, allows you to see Perseverance at several of its most important stops on its mission to investigate the Martian terrain and the tantalising possibility of fossilized Martian life.
Users can drag a camera around the rover, looking at the reconstructed terrain as Perseverance saw it, investigate images taken by the rover at a given site, and even see the rocks Perseverance has so far sampled on the Red Planet.
“It’s the best reconstruction available of what Mars looks like,” said Parker Abercrombie, a software engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is leading the experience’s development. Abercrombie’s team works on a similar tool for NASA researchers and now designed one for the public.
The images in the experience are pulled from Perseverance itself as well as the HiRISE tool aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the planet since 2006.
The other interactive tool is called “Where Is Perseverance?” Its purpose is pretty self-explanatory: updated after every flight and drive, it shows the precise location of both the Perseverance rover and its accompanying helicopter, Ingenuity. The tool is one of the easiest ways to understand what has changed for the robots on Mars as they go about their respective business.
Ingenuity has been charged with a couple tasks: First, it proved that powered, controlled flight was feasible on Mars, and now, it’s acting as a scout for Perseverance, testing the bounds of how fast, high, and far it can go on a frigid planet with about 1.5 per cent Earth’s atmosphere and dropping, as Ingenuity’s chief pilot Håvard Grip described in a recent blog post.
Perseverance is gradually making its way to a river delta on the west end of Jezero Crater. It’s there that scientists think ancient life may have had the best chance of forming. And with these new tools, you can keep up with the rover as it rolls along, sampling rocks along the way.