One of the greatest frustrations of the last many decades for many an astronomer and planetary scientists is the bandwidth with have with our robots. While it has been possible since Opportunity and Spirit landed in 2004 to build 3D imagery that mirrors exactly what a human on Mars would see, we just haven’t had the literal bandwidth to rover the rovers around taking video and then get all the data back to Earth in a rational period of time.
So we live with animated 2D gifs and move on.
But what we can’t do with a video camera, researchers are starting to figure out how to do from space. By combining images from the orbiting Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with altitude measurements, researchers have built a 3D interactive map that lets you fly around like a drone and explore Jezero crater.
This is not the final, VR-ready experience of my dreams, but it shows we’re getting there. It gives me hope that I won’t be retired before I can explore Mars with a tiny helicopter’s eye view as I look for fossils in the outcrops. My dream remains alive.
This work is presented at the European Planetary Science Congress by SHG Walter and their team.
EPSC press release