The overwhelming majority of us will never set foot on Mars, but now, for the price of a virtual reality headset, we can do the next best thing.
NASA engineers have teamed up with programmers at Google to produce Access Mars, a VR tour of the Red Planet, stitched together from the 200,000 images beamed to Earth by the Curiosity Rover since it landed in 2012.
The tour experience grew out of an in-house VR program put together by NASA to assist its researchers to better understand Curiosity’s data by making it fully immersive. The result has been especially useful for geologists, who can take a virtual wander around rocky outcrops and dunes, studying their formations in a way that is qualitatively more informative than simply looking at two-dimensional images.
The Access Mars experience lets users visit those same outcrops and dunes, while listening to commentary provided by NASA Mars specialist, Katie Stack Morgan.
The VR experience is free, and can be downloaded here. Sorry, though, you’ll have to supply your own headset.