By Alec Meer on July 17th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.
That I’ll never get to visit another planet (or moon; hell, I’ll take moon) is one of the great sadnesses of my life. Maybe, if I’m very lucky, Richard Branson will buy RPS and give me a free ride in his spaceship one day, but he’s probably too busy picking up women. So, for now, I must settle with exploring a Unity-powered, browser-based, explorable recreation of Mars, courtesy of NASA.
The plan is to have an as-it-more-or-less-happens recreation of the Curiosity rover’s trek around Mars’ Gale Crater as it searches for signs of long-lost life. Using mapping and data from prior visits to the red planet, it’s a meticulous recreation of Mars’ terrain. Sadly it’s not the highest-end use of Unity (with no settings to fiddle with), but there’s something quite mystical about that swathe of red-brown, endelss desert landscape nonetheless. I really wish my 27″ monitor hadn’t died two days after arriving (with the retailer being out of stock of replacements), as this positively demands as grand a vista as possible despite despite the lo-fi textures and lighting.
Pop-up facts offer handy interplanetary education, and more features will be turned once the Curiosity rover itself reaches Mars 19 days from now. I’ll definitely be checking in to follow its progress. The hunt for signs of alien life, recreated via my graphics card – strange, silent but exciting for sure.
Give it a go, do. For controllable bits, click on ‘Gale Crater’ from the bar at the top. It’s not the most intuitive of interfaces, admittedly, but once you’ve hit that you enter a moveable, first-person perspective.