NASA rovers have taken a huge number of photos from the Mars surface, enabling researchers on the ground to combine them into a single massive, highly detailed 3D model of the planet’s landscape. This 3D model, thanks to a Google project called Access Mars, is now easily accessible to anyone with access to Chrome or your Internet browser of choice.
Google built its Access Mars VR experience via WebVR — you can view it without a virtual reality headset, and in fact only need to open this link to view it directly in your browser’s tab. This can be done via your laptop, a desktop, or even a phone or tablet. A VR headset does provide the best experience, though.
What you’re seeing in the Access Mars environment is the actual Mars landscape as determined by NASA’s Curiosity rover rolling around the Red Planet. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and it is classified as a WebVR Experiment.
Upon entering the Access Mars website, you’ll be greeted with an introduction that explains some bullet points about NASA’s efforts to get to Mars, followed by a simulation of the Curiosity rover’s descent onto Mars. You can skip all of that if you want, but it’s worth giving it a watch the first time around just for the factoids.
Various parts of the 3D model include small pins that, when clicked, open visual and audible explanations and details, including things like a satellite view of the region when possible. Because traveling around the model is difficult without any idea about where you’re going, the model includes shortcuts to take you to places like the Marias Pass.
SOURCE: Google Blog