NASA / Unity Technologies
Rather than just viewing Mars photos, you can navigate a 3-D world.
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updated 8/9/2012 6:27:03 PM ET 2012-08-09T22:27:03

Space enthusiasts who want to keep up with the Mar's rover Curiosity's mission from home can now view it in 3-D, without the glasses, at the NASA mission website.

Curiosity landed successfully in Mars' Gale Crater on Sunday night, beginning a two-year mission to determine if the environment is or ever was hospitable for primitive (microbial) life.

To use the 3-D model of the mission, visit the NASA site, where you will be prompted to install the Unity Web Player, a browser plug-in for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera on Windows, and Safari, Firefox and Chrome on Mac OS X.

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After downloading, the virtual experience loads, and visitors will be able to follow the actual path of the rover on Mars’ surface and peer through some of the thousands of images expected to be taken by Curiosity over the next two years. Users will be able to maneuver the rover around a 3-D model of the actual terrain of Gale Crater.

[See also: " Explore the Red Planet with 'Mars Rover Landing '"]

The virtual terrain that the 3-D model of Curiosity will travel across is based on actual mapping data collected by the rover, and then sent to Unity Technologies, maker of the Web player, for processing and inclusion in the application.

Unity’s 3-D experience is the first time that NASA has attempted to provide space enthusiasts with a comprehensive experience of a mission like Curiosity’s. Previously, imagery and video of missions were released in a less-organized fashion.

For example, data sent from two other Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are posted to NASA’s website dedicated to those missions.  It’s a bit different with Curiosity: NASA has instead chosen to give onlookers a realistic perspective on the mission as the rover itself sees it.

Follow Ed Oswald on Twitter @edoswald

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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