NASA 3-D app gives public ability to experience robotic space travel

Jul 12, 2012
With augmented reality app Spacecraft 3D, you can get up close and personal with some of NASA's heroes of robotic exploration. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) -- A NASA-created application that brings some of the agency's robotic spacecraft to life in 3-D now is available for free on the iPhone and iPad.

Called Spacecraft 3D, the app uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components. Presently, the new app features two NASA missions, the Curiosity rover that will touch down on Mars on Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT (Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT), and the twin spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, currently orbiting the moon.

"With Spacecraft 3D and a mobile device, you can put high definition, three-dimensional models literally into the hands of kids of all ages," said Stephen Kulczycki, deputy director for communications and education at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Spacecraft 3D is among the first of what are known as augmented-reality apps for Apple devices. Augmented reality provides users a view of a real-world environment where elements are improved by additional input. Spacecraft 3D uses the or iPad camera to overlay information on the device's main screen. The app instructs users to print an augmented-reality target on a standard sheet of paper. When the device's camera is pointed at the target, the spacecraft chosen by the user materializes on screen.

"Let's say you want to get an idea what our Curiosity Mars rover is all about," said Kevin Hussey, manager of at JPL. "Like Hollywood directors sizing up their next shot, you move your camera-equipped iPad or iPhone in and out, up and down, and the spacecraft perspective moves with you. It is a great way to study the 3-D nature of ."

Spacecraft 3D also has a feature where you can take your own augmented-reality picture of the rover or GRAIL spacecraft. You can even make a self-portrait with a spacecraft, putting yourself or someone else in the picture.

"In the near future, we will incorporate the , which is orbiting Saturn, the Dawn spacecraft, which is deep in the heart of the asteroid belt, and the Voyagers, which are right now at the very edge of our solar system," said Hussey. "Looking down the road, we've got a veritable solar system full of spacecraft to work with."

Spacecraft 3D currently is available only for Apple formats, but should be available on other formats in the near future.

The detailed computer models of the spacecraft used in Spacecraft 3D originally were originally generated for NASA's "Eyes on the Solar System" Web application. "Eyes on the Solar System" is a 3-D environment full of NASA mission data that allows anyone to explore the cosmos from their computer.

Explore further: Google exec makes record skydive from edge of space

More information: For information on how to download the Spacecraft 3D app, visit: itunes.apple.com/us/app/spacec… -3d/id541089908?mt=8.
For more information about Eyes on the Solar System and NASA robotic missions, visit: solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes/.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Next Mars rover nears completion

Apr 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Assembly and testing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is far enough along that the mission's rover, Curiosity, looks very much as it will when it is investigating Mars.

NASA Announces Deep Impact Future Mission Status

Jul 21, 2005

As NASA's Deep Impact flyby spacecraft prepares to execute its sixth trajectory correction maneuver, program managers at agency headquarters in Washington are investigating future options.

Recommended for you

Hinode satellite captures X-ray footage of solar eclipse

Oct 24, 2014

The moon passed between the Earth and the sun on Thursday, Oct. 23. While avid stargazers in North America looked up to watch the spectacle, the best vantage point was several hundred miles above the North ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

madc02
5 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2012
"...apps for Apple devices." So even NASA is Apple-compliant now? Seriously disappointing, coming from a taxpayer-funded agency. I guess there must be some fanboi NASA admins somewhere.
R2Bacca
5 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2012
I was bummed when I read this was Apple only. Now I know how Mac users must have felt through the 90s and mid-2000's.
rwinners
not rated yet Jul 12, 2012
And why is this not available for full sized computers?