If you’re waiting for the 14th July fly-by of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, there might be something to keep you interested in the meantime. NASA recently released “Mars Trek”, an online application that allows users to explore the surface of Mars from their browsers. The application is accessible from computers as well as handheld devices, although a good connection is needed to use it smoothly.
The application is an interactive map viewer with a set of useful tools. It provides 2D and 3D views of the planet. The 2D view is simply a large map of the Martian surface formed by smoothly weaving together images of its surface. The 3D view gives a globe view, with 2D images overlaid on a spherical 3D model of Mars (like the default view of Google Earth). The 2D view can be changed between the North and South Poles as well as an overall global view.
Known features are highlighted with their names and clicking on them reveals details like diameter, origin of name, position etc. A list of bookmarks gives easy access to these noteworthy features, along with the paths traversed by the different rovers sent to Mars. These can also be searched for via the search bar.
Tools include using lines to calculate lengths and elevation along them, measuring sun angles (at specific locations and times) and even getting the real time locations of the spacecraft orbiting Mars displayed on the map. There is also a tool that allows the generation of STL files for 3D printing features of the surface. These features can be from the bookmarks or selected by the users via a box tool. A “Layers” tool allows the user to overlay different types of maps generated by different missions and instruments.
Compared to the Mars feature in Google Earth, Mars Trek has a few extra features (like a better quality, more comprehensive set of map layers and the 3D modeling/printing feature) but also lacks some features that Google Earth has (like the relevant images pinned to different features on map).
So take a trip to Mars free of cost via Mars Trek app 🙂
Featured Image: Bytescapes