NASA and Microsoft Provide Mars 3-D Close Encounter

WASHINGTON -- NASA and Microsoft Research are bringing Mars to life
with new features in the WorldWide Telescope software that provide
viewers with a high-resolution 3-D map of the Red Planet.

Microsoft's online virtual telescope explores the universe using
images NASA spacecraft return from other worlds. Teams at NASA's Ames
Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and Microsoft in Redmond,
Wash., jointly developed the software necessary to make NASA's
planetary data available in WorldWide Telescope.

"By providing the Mars dataset to the public on the WorldWide
Telescope platform, we are enabling a whole new audience to
experience the thrill of space," said Chris C. Kemp, chief technology
officer for information technology at NASA Headquarters in

The fully-interactive images and new NASA data will allow viewers to
virtually explore Mars and make their own scientific discoveries. New
features include the highest resolution fully interactive map of Mars
ever created, realistic 3-D renderings of the surface of the planet
and video tours with two NASA scientists, James Garvin of NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Carol Stoker of

Garvin's tour walks viewers through the geological history of Mars and
discusses three possible landing sites for human missions there. Each
landing site highlights a different geological era of the planet.
Stoker's tour addresses the question "Is there life on Mars?" and
describes the findings of NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander.

"Our hope is that this inspires the next generation of explorers to
continue the scientific discovery process," said Ames Center Director
S. Pete Worden.

The Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames Research Center developed open
source software that runs on the NASA Nebula cloud computing platform
to create and host the high resolution maps. The maps contain 74,000
images from Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera and more than
13,000 high-resolution images of Mars taken by the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment
(HiRISE) camera. Each individual HiRISE image contains more than a
billion pixels. The complete maps were rendered into image mosaics
containing more than half a billion smaller images.

"These incredibly detailed maps will enable the public to better
experience and explore Mars," said Michael Broxton, a research
scientist in the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames. "The
collaborative relationship between NASA and Microsoft Research was
instrumental for creating the software that brings these new Mars
images into people's hands, classrooms and living rooms."

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) reached the planet in 2006 to
begin a two-year primary science mission. The mission has returned
more data about Mars than all other spacecraft sent to the Red
Planet. The Global Surveyor began orbiting Mars in 1997. The
spacecraft operated longer than any other Mars spacecraft, ceasing
operations in November 2006.

"Microsoft has a long-standing relationship with NASA that has enabled
us to jointly provide the public with the ability to discover space
in a new way," said Tony Hey, corporate vice president of the
External Research Division of Microsoft Research.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages MRO for
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin
Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. HiRISE is operated by
the University of Arizona and was built by Ball Aerospace &
Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Malin Space Science Systems in
San Diego provided and operated the Mars Orbiter Camera.

To learn more and download the WorldWide Telescope, visit:


For more information and images of Mars taken by HiRISE, visit:


Source: NASA

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