I am a certified Mars Rover pilot, and you can be too.
(Thanks to Mission To Mars 3D, anyway)
Chances are, if I polled 100 people on whether they’d like to command a space mission to Mars, or pilot a six-wheeled rover as if it were the universe’s most advanced remote-controlled vehicle (I mean, it has a nuclear power source, for cryin’ out loud), 99 of them would say HELL YES. I don’t know what the other person would be thinking, honestly.
Well, you can do that now. Thanks to a collaboration between the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and Mozilla’s Ignite competition, you can simulate a future trip to the red planet inside your browser with the Mission to Mars 3D Experiment.
This educational game/tool challenges you to plan and carry out two missions off the bat. First, you devise a rocket launch scheme to send an emergency resupply payload to a science colony on Mars, using a planetary orbit simulator. After you master “the slingshot”, you pilot a Mars Curiosity rover clone, using its onboard instruments to locate a good spot to drop a greenhouse module. I decided to launch my mission using the private SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, and had it arrive at Mars on my birthday … in 2038.
I’ll be old, but what a birthday present, eh?
The folks behind the project told me that the 3D platform is completely open source (their GitHub page) and missions can be remixed, but I haven’t played with that part yet. Teachers will enjoy the educational resources attached, because face it, this beats the physics lesson you had planned this week.
See you on Mars! More info available on the Webmaker blog.
Oh yeah … and this is especially appropriate since India just launched a Mars mission today, and it was beautiful (more info on that from Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society):