Take a trip to Mars — virtually

NASA's new web-based application allows users to explore Mars using the Curiosity rover. NASA/JPL

TORONTO – While you may not be brave enough to sign up for a one-way trip to Mars, take heart, would-be astronauts: there’s a way you can tour the red planet from the comfort of your own home.

READ MORE: Buzz Aldrin on why Mars is our future and why we should leave people there

Sure, it may not be as fun or adventurous as actually setting foot on Mars, but it does allow you to experience what it might be like while standing more than 200 million kilometres from Earth.

In an attempt to bring Mars to a new generation, NASA has launched two new online apps. Mars Trek allows you to explore the planet using 50 years of NASA data exploration. You can view the surface in 3D or 2D, zoom in to various features including Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in our solar system or Valles Marineris, a canyon that runs along the Martian equator, stretching more than 4,000 km, reaching a depth of seven km.

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Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system, is seen here on Mars. NASA

And Mars Trek isn’t all fun and games: NASA said a team is using the application to help select landing sites for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover.

Experience Curiosity is pretty much what it says: users can explore the Curiosity rover which is still roaming around Mars. You can also control various parts of the rover and roam around the planet’s surface. You even get to see some of the surface through Curiosity’s eye.

So for now, while you wait for the Canadian Space Agency to make its next call for astronauts, you can just explore Mars on your own.

Interesting fact: if you look closely at Curiosity’s wheels, you will see some holes. Those are actually the letters “JPL” in Morse Code.


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