Posts: 35432 From: Houston, TX Registered: Nov 1999
posted 03-30-2016 12:09 PM
'Mixed Reality' Technology Brings Mars to Earth
What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars? A group of researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been working on methods to take this question from the realm of imagination to the mind-bending domain of mixed reality.
As a result, NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to offer the public a guided tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin this summer in "Destination: Mars," an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. "Mixed reality" means that virtual elements are merged with the user's actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.
The "Destination: Mars" exhibit will open at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer. Guests will "visit" several sites on Mars, reconstructed using real imagery from NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet since August 2012. Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon in 1969, will serve as "holographic tour guide" on the journey. Curiosity Mars rover driver Erisa Hines of JPL will also appear holographically, leading participants to places on Mars where scientists have made exciting discoveries and explaining what we have learned about the planet.
"This experience lets the public explore Mars in an entirely new way. To walk through the exact landscape that Curiosity is roving across puts its achievements and discoveries into beautiful context," said Doug Ellison, visualization producer at JPL.
"Destination: Mars" is an adaptation of OnSight, a Mars rover mission operations tool co-developed by Microsoft and JPL. A pilot group of scientists uses OnSight in their work supporting the Curiosity Mars rover's operations.
Above: Erisa Hines, a driver for the Mars Curiosity rover, based at JPL, also talks to participants in "Destination: Mars."
"We're excited to give the public a chance to see Mars using cutting-edge technologies that help scientists plan Curiosity's activities on Mars today," said Jeff Norris, project manager for OnSight and "Destination: Mars" at JPL. "While freely exploring the terrain, participants learn about processes that have shaped this alien world."
Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science team member at JPL, uses OnSight to make recommendations about where the rover should drive and which features to study in more detail. Recently OnSight helped her and a colleague identify the transition point between two Martian rock formations, which they would like to study in further detail.
"OnSight makes the whole process of analyzing the data feel a lot more natural to me," Fraeman said. "It really gives me the sense that I'm in the field when I put it on. Thinking about Martian geology is a lot more intuitive when I can stand in the scene and walk around the way I would if I were in the field."
By utilizing the same technologies and datasets as OnSight, "Destination: Mars" offers participants a glimpse of Mars as seen by mission scientists.
Above: Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon, makes a holographic appearance in "Destination: Mars," a mixed-reality tour of a part of Mars that NASA's Curiosity rover has explored.
JPL is also developing mixed reality applications in support of astronauts on the International Space Station and engineers responsible for the design and assembly of spacecraft. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently returned from his historic "Year in Space" activities, used one of these applications to make the first Skype call from space to mission control in February 2016.
"By connecting astronauts to experts on the ground, mixed reality could be transformational for scientific and engineering efforts in space," Norris said.
"As we prepare to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, the public will now be able to preview the experience the astronauts will have as they walk and study the Martian surface," said Dave Lavery, program executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Robert Pearlman Editor
Posts: 35432 From: Houston, TX Registered: Nov 1999
posted 09-20-2016 11:56 AM
A Mixed-Reality Trip to Mars
It'll be years before the first astronauts leave the launch pad on Earth to journey to Mars. But starting Sept. 19, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida will get a taste of what those astronauts will see when they touch down on the Red Planet.
Above: A ceremonial ribbon is cut for the opening of new "Destination: Mars" experience at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. From the left are Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the visitor complex; center director Bob Cabana; Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Kudo Tsunoda of Microsoft; and Jeff Norris of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Credit: NASA/Charles Babir
"Destination: Mars," a mixed-reality experience designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Microsoft HoloLens, held a kick-off event for media at the Visitor Complex on Sept. 18. The experience uses real imagery taken by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover to let users explore the Martian surface.
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined key representatives to introduce the limited-time experience, which runs through January 1, 2017. He said that the moon landing cultivated what became known as "the Apollo effect" — an enthusiasm for space research that inspired a generation to study science and engineering.
"Technology like HoloLens leads us once again toward exploration," Aldrin said. "It's my hope that experiences like "Destination: Mars" will continue to inspire us to explore."
Above: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, left, and Erisa Hines of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, speak to members of the news media during a preview of the new "Destination: Mars" experience at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Credit: NASA/Charles Babir
Aldrin and JPL Curiosity rover driver Erisa Hines both appear in "Destination: Mars," where they guide users across the landscape and offer a tantalizing glimpse of a future Martian colony. The technology that accomplishes this is called "mixed reality," where virtual elements are merged with the user's actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.
The public experience developed out of a JPL-designed tool called OnSight. Using the HoloLens headset, scientists across the world can explore geographic features on Mars and even plan future routes for the Curiosity rover.
"The origin of "Destination: Mars" is part of what makes it so authentic and unique," said Jeff Norris, who directs the JPL Ops Lab, which designed OnSight. "Everything you see in the experience came directly from our spacecraft."
Above: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right, and Erisa Hines of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, try out the Microsoft Hololens mixed reality headset during a preview of "Destination: Mars" at Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Credit: NASA/Charles Babir
For Microsoft, partnering with JPL allows its HoloLens technology to be applied in innovative ways. The mixed-reality headset lets researchers work in new, naturalistic ways, whether it's jumping to locations on the Martian surface or marking them with virtual annotations that collaborators can examine.
"We're thrilled to partner with NASA JPL in enabling a whole new way for its scientists to study Mars via Microsoft HoloLens, and now we're excited to finally offer the public a glimpse into NASA's use of this transformative technology," said Scott Erickson, general manager, Microsoft HoloLens.