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NASA launches spacecraft AR app

NASA has released a free app that allows users to check out a number of NASA spacecraft on their desks or any flat surface. There are over 26 3D objects in the application, including rovers, probes, launch vehicles, and deep space network (DSN) antennas used to control the spacecraft, as well as download the data. Some of the objects have short animations to show how they operate. Users can freely move around their mobile devices to check out the particular instruments on board, from the Mastcam on the Curiosity rover that provided us with breathtaking panoramas of Mars, to the JunoCam which has been sending back a stream of RAW images that NASA lets the photo processing community play around with. The JunoCam is a little hard to see though.

On newer phones, the application works on any flat surface, and has more features. To use the application on older phones, or for a smoother AR experience, you have to print out a target image for the app to centre the objects on. There are two sheets, but only the first image on the first sheet is required. The target image is the ground at a sand dune in Oregon, which was used to test out the Mars Hand Lens Imager on board the Curiosity rover. There is a small and large target available, that needs to be cut out, or the app will get confused about which target to focus on, on the single sheet of paper. The second page has a number of images that can be cut out, and look like Polaroid snaps. These allow you to use the “Pick by Marker” mode in the app, that lets you see a spacecraft related to that image. The photos are all of different locations of Mars, each snapped by a different probe. The targets for the application can be download here. If you do not have a colour printer, the application works perfectly fine with black and white targets as well.

It is also possible to watch an entire launch through the application. There are two Delta rockets, two Atlas rockets for which the entire launch sequences are available. Users can see the various stages coming off in various angles. The sequence ends with the payload faring separating, and the satellite housed inside. There is also a P-Pod system for the deployment of CubeSats, which are small, modular nano-satellites that are increasingly common for technology demonstration and academic results now. There is also the Pegasus XL launch vehicle that is deployed from a belly of an aircraft.

The spacecraft showcased include Curiosity, MAVEN, Mars Exploration Rover, Mars Odyssey, NISAR, Cassini, Voyager, Dawn, Juno and the Hubble Space Telescope. The DSN antennas can be controlled and manipulated. Kevin Hussey, the manager of the JPL visualisation team said, “The Spacecraft AR app is an exciting new way to get up close and personal with NASA’s robotic missions, we can’t wait for people to try it, and we’re looking forward to adding many more spacecraft to the app in the future.” Interested readers can check out the application in action below.

NASA's Spacecraft AR App

NASA launches spacecraft AR app dgit.in/spacecraftar

Posted by Digit Geek on Wednesday, 21 March 2018

For now, Spacecraft AR is available only on the Play Store. NASA is plans to release a version on iOS as well, and add more spacecraft to the application in the future.

Source: NASA.

Aditya Madanapalle

Aditya Madanapalle

An avid reader of the magazine, who ended up working at Digit after studying journalism, game design and ancient runes. When not egging on arguments in the Digit forum, can be found playing with LEGO sets meant for 9 to 14-year-olds.