Two years ago, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing gave flight to a handful of Apollo 11 augmented reality apps and experiences, including one from the Smithsonian Channel.
Now, as NASA's latest unmanned mission to Mars is scheduled to land on Thursday, the Smithsonian Channel's digital team has crafted yet another timely space-based AR app for the occasion.
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Available now for iOS and Android, the Mission to Mars AR app unloads seven AR experiences that enable you to get up close and personal with the red planet and the rovers, past and present, assigned to explore it from the comfort of the third rock from the Sun.
The Mars Overview experience also gives you the opportunity to view a miniature rendering of the planet, while the Portal to Mars does exactly what an AR enthusiast would expect it to do, anchoring a digital doorway to a 360-degree simulation of the planet's surface.
The app also allows you to check out 3D models of the five rovers that have traversed the planet's terrain, while its Drive the Rovers feature lets you control a virtual rover at four scaling options (1:1, 1:2, 1:4, and 1:8) and capture footage of your hijinks.
Additionally, the app's Launch the Rocket feature recreates the July 30, 2020 launch of the rocket carrying Perseverance into orbit, while its Seven Minutes of Terror feature simulates the rover's landing at its destination.
Finally, the Mission on Mars feature puts you behind the controls of a virtual Perseverance rover (the one landing today) for a guided simulation where you can drive and operate the vehicle and fly the Ingenuity mini-helicopter.
With each experience, you can capture photos and videos directly in the app to share with others. In addition, the app includes eight videos and quizzes about various aspects of Mars and the expeditions to explore it.
While the app launches conveniently alongside Perseverance's arrival on Mars, the Smithsonian Channel also has an ulterior motive for the app; it serves as an appetizer for Making Tracks on Mars, debuting Thursday at 8 pm Eastern time.
Regardless, if you want to fully space nerd out, you can see the Perseverance rover live as it is scheduled to start landing at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 18.
Before then, download and install the Mission to Mars AR app from the App Store or Google Play and play with the Mars Overview, Meet the Rovers, and Launch the Rocket experiences ahead of the landing.
Then, run the Seven Minutes of Terror experience as it touches down. Then run the Portal to Mars and Mission on Mars to explore the planet alongside Perseverance. That's peak space, baby.
Or, if you've found your way to this story after the live event has gone down, you can just run the experiences at your leisure.
In either case, any opportunity for the average Earthling to travel space in the near future appears to be reserved for the rich and famous. For now, augmented reality gives the rest of us a chance to simulate the experience without even having to reach our home planet's atmosphere.