Two interactive web experiences let you explore the Martian surface, seen by the cameras onboard the rover and the orbiters flying above you.
It’s the best thing next to being on Mars: two interactive online experiences let you experience Jezero Crater – the landing site and exploration location for NASA’s Perseverance rover – without leaving our planet.
A new experience, called âExplore With Perseverance,â lets you follow the rover as if you were standing on the surface of Mars. Another interactive – “Where’s the persistence?” – shows the current location of the Ingenuity Mars rover and helicopter as they explore the Red Planet. It’s updated after every ride and flight and lets you track the progress of Perseverance and Ingenuity, as they travel on and above the Red Planet.
Explore with Perseverance is primarily comprised of images taken by the rover from various points of view, with additional images from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Experiment) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter above the head. .
âThis is the best available reconstruction of what Mars looks like,â said Parker Abercrombie, senior software engineer who heads software development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The agency’s Mars Public Engagement team recruited Abercrombie and colleagues, who are working on similar tools for the mission team, to develop an audience-friendly experience by stitching and reconstructing the Perseverance and HiRISE images.
The team plans to update the site regularly with new views of the spacecraft and rover and new points of interest, as they are found. For example, says Abercrombie, “we can highlight rocks and other scientifically interesting features, or Ingenuity helicopter flight locations.”
Abercrombie thinks the site will help people understand the prospect as if they were on Mars. âSometimes it is difficult for people to understand the location and distance of the images of Mars. It’s not like here on Earth, where you can get your bearings by looking at trees and buildings. With Martian terrain, it can be very difficult to understand what you are seeing. “
The dashboard makes it easy for parents and teachers to share 3D views with children, supporting them in exploring Perseverance.
The 3D tool is based on the Advanced Scientific Targeting Tool for Robotic Operations (ASTTRO) that the rover’s science team uses to select interesting targets for the rover to study – but has been modified to make it more user-friendly.
âIt’s a unique challenge to set things up so that people can navigate in a way that they understand, as users have different experiences using 3D environments,â Abercrombie said. âThis is a great opportunity for the public to follow the mission, using the same type of visualization tools as the mission scientists. “
The Curiosity mission has a similar experience built by the same team.
A Mars Map of Rover and Helicopter Travel
âWhere is the persistence? map lets you better see what we’re doing and where we’re going, âsaid Fred Calef, mapping specialist at JPL. It’s also based on ASTTRO, and Calef notes that you’ll get the data almost as fast as engineers and scientists. Plus, you’re using pretty much the same software that the team uses, “so everyone can explore the way we explore in almost the same way,” Calef explains, zooming in, zooming out and moving around.
Where is the perseverance? This interactive map shows the landing site of NASA’s Perseverance rover in Jezero Crater. Perseverance landed on February 18, 2021. The map also shows the location of the Mars helicopter. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech.
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The map shows the rover’s route and stopping points with markers indicating Martian day, or sol, and you’ll get a glimpse of where Perseverance and Ingenuity might be heading next. Terrain maps like this allow scientists to spot interesting places to search for possible evidence of ancient life, and you can share the journey.
When Ingenuity flies, it’s usually an explosion of activity, then a lull for a few weeks. The rover, says Calef, “rolls more often, but not as far, going about 130 meters [142 yards] on its longest trip (ground) to date. When we find a geologically interesting place, we stop for about a week to check it out.
Learn more about the mission
You can get more information about Curiosity on Mars activities on the Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity website, and follow the latest information about Perseverance on the Mars 2020 / Perseverance website.
A key objective of the Perseverance mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the past geology and climate of the planet, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (shattered rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples on the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s approach to exploring the Moon to Mars, which includes Artemis missions to the moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the red planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., Built and manages the operations of the Perseverance rover.
To find out more about Perseverance:
Written by Jane Platt