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NASA Virtual Field Trip to Mars 2021

In a time of quarantines and online learning, guided strolls along the surface of Mars are especially appealing.

These tours are possible with Access Mars, a free virtual reality experience of the Red Planet, with interactive landmarks and narration by a NASA scientist, using the Planetary Data System (PDS).

PDS is a long-term archive of digital data products returned from NASA's planetary missions, actively managed by its scientists for the worldwide planetary science community. While all archived products are free and available on-line, PDS also provides a variety of tools useful in producing, obtaining and using archived data. 

The collaboration between NASA and Google is one of numerous virtual and augmented reality projects made possible by the high-resolution imagery and data the space agency has collected with spacecraft and rovers on and around other worlds over the years.

Access Mars was created with photos taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying the Red Planet since 2012. Users can navigate Curiosity’s path, including the rover’s landing site, its current location, and Martian landmarks like the Pahrump Hills, Marias Pass, and Murray Buttes, with wind hissing steadily in the background and explanations spoken by NASA scientist Kathryn Stack Morgan.

Users only need a cellphone or computer and an internet connection, making the project broadly accessible, especially compared with traditional virtual reality experiences that require expensive headsets and large file downloads. This accessibility has come in handy for people feeling cooped up amid the pandemic of 2020. 


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