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Exploring Planetary Surfaces with NASA’s Solar System Treks

NASA’s Solar System Treks project produces a suite of online, interactive visualization and analysis portals.  These tools enable mission planners, planetary scientists, and engineers to access data products from a wide range of instruments aboard a variety of past and current missions, for a growing number of planetary bodies. Originally planned for mission planning and science, this technology has shown great benefits for public outreach. As new missions are being planned to a variety of planetary bodies, these tools are facilitating the public’s understanding of the missions and engaging the public in the process of identifying and selecting where these missions will land.

There are now seven web portals in the program available to the public. This expanded list includes portals for the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Ceres, and Titan. Icy Moons Trek features seven of Saturn’s smaller icy moons. The latest addition is the new Mercury Trek portal. All of these are unified under a new project home site with supporting content. As web-based toolsets, the portals do not require users to purchase or install any software beyond current standard web browsers.

Using the portals, students and members of the public can conduct their own explorations of planetary surfaces, measuring diameters of craters, creating elevation profiles of peaks and valleys, and plotting traverse paths. The standardized Trek interface provides enhanced 3D visualization and navigation. Standard keyboard gaming controls allow the user to maneuver a first-person visualization of “flying” across planetary surfaces. User-specified bounding boxes can be used to generate STL and/or OBJ files to create physical models of surface features with 3D printers. Users can also create on-the-fly VR experiences by drawing a path across the surface using the browser interface. A QR code is then generated which is read by the user’s smart phone. Placing the phone in an inexpensive set of Google Cardboard-compatible goggles, the user then flies along their specified path in virtual reality.

The presentation will showcase the capabilities of the portals with examples from a number of planetary bodies including the Moon, Mars, Ceres, Mercury, and more.

Speaker: Brian Day, NASA Ames

Saturday, 08/17/19


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East Bay Astronomical Society

Chabot Space & Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd
2nd Floor, Spees Bldg, Galileo Room
Oakland, CA 94619

Website: Click to Visit