NASA is giving the public the power to journey through the solar system using a new interactive Web-based tool.
The "Eyes on the Solar System" interface combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft and explore the cosmos. Screen graphics and information such as planet locations and spacecraft maneuvers use actual space mission data.
"This is the first time the public has been able to see the entire solar system and our missions moving together in real time," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "It demonstrates NASA's continued commitment to share our science with everyone."
The virtual environment uses the Unity game engine to display models of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and spacecraft as they move through our solar system. With keyboard and mouse controls, users cruise through space to explore anything that catches their interest. A free browser plug-in, available at the site, is required to run the Web application.
"You are now free to move about the solar system," said Blaine Baggett, executive manager in the Office of Communication and Education at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "See what NASA's spacecraft see -- and where they are right now -- all without leaving your computer."
Sigh. Unity is available for Windows and Mac. The rest of us can use Celestia.