Space Tourismo

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 and Earth developed from the same components and resembled each other very much when the solar system first began to take on its current shape, more than four billion years ago. They both have a solid crust, and a rocky mantle, and are terrestrial planets. We already know that lakes, streams, and maybe an ocean in the north formerly existed on Mars.

Due to the separation of the two worlds, we now have two extremely distinct planets. Mars may have been warm and moist earlier, but it is today a chilly, dry environment. Mars’ geologic activity decreased, it lost water, and it became drier as the Earth developed with plate tectonics and the emergence of life.

Studying the Red Planet is intriguing in part because of this common past. Our investigation of Mars is advancing our knowledge of Earth’s history and future, as well as the evolution of other planets in our solar system and beyond.
So, has Mars ever resembled Earth? Yes, it is true. very, really long in the past.

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.

Curiosity Rover & Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headsets

Thanks to NASA’s sophisticated Curiosity rover, journalist Bill Whitaker has now seen Mars up close. In August 2012, the rover set foot on Mars, and since then, it has been collecting images and conducting experiments.
NASA also obtains photographs of Mars from Opportunity, a previous, smaller rover, and from satellites that have been monitoring the Martian surface for more than 50 years. The 3D topography of Mars has been stitched together by NASA using all of these images, according to the agency.

Through Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headsets, technology brings it to life. In mixed reality, the user’s physical surroundings and virtual aspects are combined.
The virtual reality headsets make use of OnSight, a mission operations platform that Microsoft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) jointly created. OnSight enables researchers to take part in a shared virtual reality from any location in the globe. Nothing is rendered; all the photos are actual photographs of Mars.

The virtual reality tour, according to Whitaker, “was one of the coolest things I have had the chance to do working at CBS.”

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. 

Sources: www.cbsnews.com cbsnews.com

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