Did you know you can track the progress of NASA’s Perseverance rover in real time as it travels tens of millions of miles toward Mars?
This weekend NASA pointed space fans to its interactive Eyes on the Solar System desktop app that lets you track the current location of the Mars 2020 rover, among a bunch of other awesome features.
“Eyes on the Solar System visualizes the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance’s course to Mars,” said Fernando Abilleira, the Mars 2020 mission design and navigation manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, adding, “If you want to follow along with us on our journey, that’s the place to be.”
Perseverance, which began its mammoth journey aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 30, is scheduled to reach the Martian surface in February 2020.
Besides revealing the precise distance between the red planet and the spacecraft at any given moment, the app also let you fly formation with Perseverance, or check the relative velocity between Mars and Earth or, say, the dwarf planet Pluto. Other controls let you compare the size of the rover with a human, a school bus, and a sports stadium.
The Eyes on the Solar System app also lets you travel throughout the solar system and even through time, with lots of interesting information also offered on other NASA missions.
The app features a simple mode with tabs for destinations, missions, news, and people, and an advanced mode offering lots of customization options. It even has a 3D mode where — if you have a pair of red-cyan anaglyph glasses handy — you can enjoy an even more immersive experience.
“With all our orbital assets circling Mars as well as Curiosity and InSight on its surface, there is new data and imagery coming in all the time about the red planet,” said Jon Nelson, visualization technology and applications development supervisor at JPL. “Essentially, if you haven’t seen Mars lately through Eyes on the Solar System, you haven’t seen Mars.”
To locate Perseverance’s current position, click on the sliders icon at the bottom right of the app’s display, then use the scroll wheel on your mouse (or the wheel at the right end of the control panel) to zoom in toward Earth. When “Mars 2020” appears, click on it to zoom in further, and then use the buttons in the control panel to find out more.
When it reaches the Martian surface, Perseverance will search for signs of ancient life, gather rock and soil samples for return to Earth, and collect data for future human exploration of the distant planet. It’s also carrying a small helicopter-like machine called Ingenuity that’s set to become the first aircraft to fly on another planet.