From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published November 1, 2011 05:42 PM

Interacting with Mars

First there were telescopes looking up at Mars. In time this became orbital views and then remote control robots wandering the surface. It would be nice to walk on Mars and really see what there is to see. Until then there is something called a CAVE, which is a 3D visualization center and it gives you a total immersive environment. This means that it renders virtual data in three dimensions and as you move your head and really see Mars as if you were there. So, when you are in that environment you can interact with the data on other planets in a more personal hands on or eyes on way.

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With this technology what is being done is taking data that's usually looked at on flat maps and computer screens and rendering it, making visual objects in a way that allow users to see to understand things better. This can be done with any data whether on Earth Mars, or Io that are generally obtained through NASA and making it into 3D visualizations you can interact with directly.

The University of California is spearheading this particular effort. They have the CAVE.

One of the main goals for the Mars Science Laboratory mission is to characterize the ancient environment on mars and understand whether or not it could have supported life. They plan to zoom into Gale Crater and a nearby canyon as of their first studied objects.

Gale is a crater on Mars, near the border of the lowlands of Elysium Planitia. It is 154 km in diameter and believed to be about 3.5 to 3.8 billion years old.

An unusual feature of Gale is an enormous mound of debris around its central peak, rising 5.5 km above the northern crater floor and 4.5 km above the southern crater floor - slightly taller than the southern rim of the crater itself. The mound is composed of layered material and may have been laid down over a period of around 2 billion years. The origin of this mound is not known with certainty, but research suggests it's the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater completely, possibly originally deposited on a lake bed.

For further information: http://www.ucop.edu/sciencetoday/article/26581

Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/PIA08440-Mars_Rover_Spirit-Volcanic_Rock_Fragment.jpg

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