If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stand on Mars and survey the dune-covered landscape, NASA has just what you’ve been waiting for. A new video from the Curiosity rover has been published that lets you view the Martian surface in the Bagnold Dune Field. You can experience this stunning vista on your computer, but the best way to do it is to use a Google Cardboard viewer and your smartphone.
This 360-degree scene was captured in the same areas where Curiosity took its recent selfie image. You can see the brown Namib Dune right in front of the rover in this video. That’s where Curiosity collected soil for analysis several weeks ago on its way higher up Mount Sharp. The Bagnold Dune Field extends outward from that. The closest dune is about 23 feet from the rover in this image. Off to the right of the dune is the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. In the other direction you can see the bedrock of Naukluft Plateau, which Curiosity took a closer look at a few days after checking out Namib Dune.
This immersive scene was captured with Curiosity‘s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on December 18th, 2015. This instrument has two cameras designed to take true color photos and videos with a still resolution of 1600×1200. The hardware compressed video tops out at 720p, but only 10fps. The 360-degree video was assembled from many individual snapshots, so it’s not technically a video per se. It’s available as a YouTube 360-degree video video simply because that’s a great way to present this panoramic scene.
If you start the embedded video here in your browser, you can click and drag to pan around and see the Martian landscape. On a mobile device, you can open the video in your dedicated player and tap and drag to accomplish the same. For Android and iPhone users, you can drop your phone into a Cardboard viewer and get the best Martian experience yet.
All 360-degree YouTube videos, this one included, have a Cardboard button that will launch into stereoscopic mode. Lining up the phone to get both images in focus can be a little tricky, but it looks really neat when you do. Cardboard viewers are incredibly inexpensive (because they’re often made of cardboard), and Google lists several of them you can buy right now. One big caveat here is that your phone must have a gyroscope for the Cardboard button to appear. Some budget devices like the Moto G and Honor 5X don’t have this hardware component.
NASA has also made the full-resolution source image available for download on its website, and there are wallpaper cropped versions as well.
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