NASA is giving the public a new interactive web-based tool to explore the solar system like never before.
The “Eyes on the Solar System” interface combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft and explore the cosmos.
Users may experience missions in real-time, and even travel through time.
“This is the first time the public has been able to see the entire solar system and our missions moving together in real-time,” said Jim Green, director of NASA''s Planetary Science Division at the agency''s Headquarters in Washington.
“It demonstrates NASA''s continued commitment to share our science with everyone,” he added.
The virtual environment http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes uses the Unity game engine to display models of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and spacecraft as they move through our solar system.
With keyboard and mouse controls, users cruise through space to explore anything that catches their interest.
“You are now free to move about the solar system,” said Blaine Baggett, executive manager in the Office of Communication and Education at NASA''s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “See what NASA''s spacecraft see -- and where they are right now -- all without leaving your computer.”
The playback rate can be sped up or slowed down. Point of view can be switched from faraway to close-up to right “on board” spacecraft. Location, motion and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data.
Dozens of controls on a series of pop-up menus allow users to fully customize what they see, and video and audio tutorials explain how to use the tool''s many options. Users may choose from 2-D or 3-D modes, with the latter simply requiring a pair of red-cyan glasses to see.