Student tests HoloLens for NASA, gets closer look at Mars surface

December 5, 2016, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Student tests HoloLens for NASA, gets closer look at Mars surface
Rachel Kronyak demonstrates the use of the HoloLens. The image she sees in 3-D is displayed on the computer screen. Credit: University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Every day, Rachel Kronyak walks around the surface of the planet Mars, examining a rock or getting a closer look at a butte framing the horizon.

A in geology at UT, Kronyak is among a small set of worldwide testing the use of an augmented reality headset to see how it can help NASA determine whether Mars could support life.

The HoloLens allows scientists to explore the surface of Mars in a three-dimensional hologram using images captured by the Mars rover Curiosity. The use of the device for the mission represents a partnership between Microsoft and NASA.

"It gives a much better context for what we're looking at with the rover and allows us to get closer," said Kronyak, who received the HoloLens this fall. "It just adds another dimension to driving and operating a vehicle on Mars."

Kronyak, a native of New Jersey, is working with Linda Kah, UT professor of earth and planetary sciences, who has been part of the Curiosity mission since the rover landed on Mars in 2012. Kronyak was the first student Kah brought onto the Mars Rover science team, in late 2014.

The team helps plan out the daily operations of the rover and analyzes the data sent back to Earth. Curiosity—a robotic vehicle roughly the size of a Mini Cooper—includes two primary cameras that serve as the eyes of the rover and a robotic arm with several science instruments, including a high-resolution camera capable of taking detailed images of nearby rocks as well as selfies. The rover also has a laser on its head, called ChemCam, that shoots beams as far as 21 feet at a rock of interest, creating a plasma. Curiosity then analyzes the plasma with a spectrometer to determine the rock's chemical composition.

The rover is currently driving on rocks that likely represent ancient lake deposits, which indicate a body of water could have existed there, Kronyak said.

"One of the coolest things Curiosity can do is drill into a rock and analyze a powdered sample," she said, noting that it gives scientists a comprehensive way to study rocks on Mars.

The data collected from the and HoloLens will also be folded into her dissertation research, Kronyak said.

Explore further: Image: Curiosity's arm over 'Marimba' target on mount sharp

Related Stories

NASA rover game released for Curiosity's anniversary

August 4, 2016

As Curiosity marks its fourth anniversary (in Earth years) since landing on Mars, the rover is working on collecting its 17th sample. While Curiosity explores Mars, gamers can join the fun via a new social media game, Mars ...

Curiosity self-portrait, wide view

December 27, 2012

(—On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution ...

Recommended for you

How massive can neutron stars be?

January 16, 2018

Astrophysicists at Goethe University Frankfurt set a new limit for the maximum mass of neutron stars: They cannot exceed 2.16 solar masses.

Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume

January 12, 2018

Statistical analysis of supermassive black holes suggests that the spin of the black hole may play a role in the generation of powerful high-speed jets blasting radio waves and other radiation across the universe.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.