Sammy Nickalls
August 07, 2015 11:51 am

Yesterday marked three years since NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed safely on Mars. (Where has the time gone?) Since then, scientists have learned SO much about the mysterious red planet thanks to Curiosity’s data and findings.

“Since its arrival in August 2012, Curiosity has driven nearly eleven kilometers from its landing site to the foot of Mount Sharp within Gale Crater,” Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, explained in a recent Curiosity Rover report video. “The first year was spent traversing through ancient stream beds and exploring Yellowknife Bay, the site of an ancient lake.”

Through drilled samples and examination of the planet’s surface, Curiosity’s findings have been able to help the team determine that the planet has evidence of long-lived fresh water.  “So if life ever were present on Mars, a site like Yellowknife Bay could sustain it,” Vasavada explained in the video. Curiosity, which is fueled by plutonium, is slowing down three years after its launch, but it’s provided so much insight into what life is (and could be!) like on another planet.

If you’re a bit of a space geek, and you’ve been dying to see the surface of Mars for yourself, good news! Designer Brian Kumanchik worked with NASA to create Experience Curiosity, a super cool 3-D Javascript program that acts as a simulator for you to drive around a virtual Curiosity for yourself and study several checkpoints on the planet’s surface. No need to sign up for the Mars One mission — you can drive your own Curiosity from the comfort of your home. Pretty sweet, huh?

Experience Curiosity allows you to drive your own virtual Curiosity with multiple camera view angles, manual controls, and guided tutorials about the rover and the natural elements of Mars that Curiosity has explored IRL.

But keep in mind — this is no video game. The IRL Curiosity moves incredibly slow, and the virtual program has sped it up 20 times, but it’s STILL super slow. Not exactly Driveclub. Experience Curiosity is meant to be an educational tool for those who are curious about what’s going on beyond our atmosphere. It could be used by teachers to educate their students, or could just be for those who are curious and eager to learn more, but either way, we think this is a super cool innovation that we’ll definitely be checking out.

If you want to try out Experience Curiosity for yourself, click here — all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. You can leave your spacesuit at home.

(Image via Nasa)

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