Virtual Tourism

Ever wondered about what Mars looks like? Take a sneak peek at a Mars virtual tour

Space tourism has begun to take on flesh already and it seems that it won’t take long before a trip to some celestial body happens for real. Mars could certainly be one of those extraterrestrial destinations. However, until that day comes, you can easily access a Mars virtual tour, while saving up money for your real trip ticket.

A view of the night sky from Mars

Have you ever wondered how the sky looks when seen from a planet other than earth? Hugh Hou, artist and the founder of the YouTube channel CreatorUp combined technology with his creativity to provide us with such scenery from Mars. Hou, used footage from NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, to create an alluring panoramic 360o degree view of the night sky as viewed from space. He then posted his work on his Facebook page quoting “MARS Virtual Tour – What’s Mars surface looks like to you?” and the post just went viral. Viewers shared it more than 1.8 million times while leaving more than 150.000 comments.

The 360o Mars virtual tour

The phenomenal 3-D interactive view was made from 6 photos taken on February 20, 2021, by NASA’s Perseverance Navigation cameras (Navcams) after they were sent back to Earth. Hou stitched them artistically together to produce his piece of scientific art. His creation can be seen without a VR (virtual reality) headset but if you want to really enjoy the ride and make the most of it, it is better to use an Oculus VR headset. To simplify matters, he also shared instructions on how to use this device. For a Facebook user though, navigating the cursor to move the image will offer a satisfying yet alluring full 360o view of what the cameras recorded from the planet’s surface, plus a feeling of standing on the planet’s soil.

However, Hou revealed on Facebook that “The sky does not represent the real sky from Mars” explaining that he edited the sky to have a full 360 experience inside a VR headset like Oculus Quest 2. His visualization was released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

It should be noted, that the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission completes NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration activities, which are going to assist Red Planet’s exploration. According to NASA, the mission will search for proof of ancient microbial life, identify the geology and past climate of the celestial body and expand the possibilities of further space travel.

A virtual joyride to Mars

If you are in for a guided Mars virtual tour, hop on Access Mars and enjoy the ride. Access Mars is a NASA project offering a free-of-charge virtual reality tour on the Red Planet, along with many interactive elements and a simultaneous commentary by a NASA scientist,using the Planetary Data System (PDS). 

PDS is a digital database where various data products that come from NASA’s planetary missions are stored and then actively managed by NASA scientists for the whole planetary science community. PDS provides full and free access to all archived data along with a useful toolbox for producing, obtaining, and making use of stored data. 

The Access Mars project

Access Mars has been created with images shot by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, dedicated to an ongoing study of the Red Planet since 2012. Viewers can follow through Curiosity’s landing site and path, its current location, and navigate via several Martian landmarks while hearing the Martian wind and the voice of NASA scientist Kathryn Stack Morgan in the background. The project is accessible via a computer or a smartphone with an internet connection with no other prerequisites needed. NASA shared the same Martian terrain information with Google to offer an experience that’s available to all.

NASA promotes broad access to its research findings. “Our data is out there to be used,” NASA’s Samochina said. “The more accessible and the more understandable we can make it, …the better it is for us and for people who are trying to learn about what NASA is up to, what we’re doing.”

So, are you ready for space tourism to Mars? At least for a virtual trip. That is for the time being of course. 

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