London: You no longer need to be an
astronaut to explore Mars, as software giant Microsoft and
NASA have joined hands to allow people to take a close look of
the Red planet sitting at their homes.
What all one needs to enjoy this experience is a computer
with Internet connection to download an interactive map of
Computer engineers at Microsoft spent three years
crunching data from high resolution images produced by NASA
space mission to make the map.
After downloading the software, visitors will be able to
swoop in and explore a 3-D rendering of the mountains and
valleys that cover the surface of Mars.
Viewers can also take exclusive interactive tours and
hear directly with NASA scientists, while exploring the
planet, the Daily Mail reported.
Dan Fay, director of Microsoft Research`s Earth, Energy
and Environment Effort said: "We were able to take the imagery
from NASA, combine it with their elevation models and lay
those onto the surface of the globe of Mars.
"Now users of the WorldWide Telescope can zoom down and
actually experience the surface-level detail of Mars.
"They can pan back and see the height of the craters or
the depth of the canyons. The new Mars experience allows
people to feel as though they?re actually there."
Viewers can even swoop in and explore Victoria Crater and
Olympus Mons -- a low valley and the highest peak in our solar
system, said the official, who worked closely with Michael
Broxton of the NASA Ames Research Centre`s Intelligent
Robotics Group (IRG).
Broxton leads a team in the IRG informally called the
Mapmakers, which applies computer vision and image processing
to problems of cartography.
Over the years, the Mapmakers have taken satellite images
from Mars, the moon and elsewhere, and turned them into useful
Broxton said: "We wanted to make it easier for people
everywhere, as well as scientists, to access these unique and