Mars shot from Red Rover video game

A Mars video game developed from NASA data now exists, and it’s pretty far out

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Jun 25, 2018, 9:40 AM EDT

Video games often take you on a virtual trip into outer space, but how many spawned from NASA satellite data?

Alan Chan’s new driving game Red Rover may not be the type of thing in which you blast hostile aliens, but it uses satellite and terrain data from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to create an astoundingly photorealistic experience that could be the next best thing to actually standing on the Red Planet, no space suit required.

HiRISE’s powerful lens is able to see things at visible wavelengths as human eyes do, but with a telescopic lens that has been able to image the Red Planet in unprecedented, eye-opening detail. Its observations have allowed scientists to study the structure of its radiation-blasted surface and make out objects no more than three feet wide (which is remarkable considering the satellite orbits anywhere from 125 to 250 miles above the reddish dust).

“The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet,” states HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.”

With the capability to control time-of-day lighting, you can tour Victoria Crater, Western Cerberus, South Olympus, Jezero Crater, Bequerel Crater, Hibes Montes, Candor Chasma, Aeolis Streams, and Noctis Labyrinthus in what Chan calls a “ridiculously overpowered Mars rover.” His game will keep evolving as HiRISE beams more data back to Earth, which will allow him to create even more extraterrestrial landscapes.

Which landscapes ultimately show up on the game depend on the areas NASA selects for HiRISE closeups, which will be determined by data collected by the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and other regional surveys carried out by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

By the way, HiRISE’s camera is so hi-res that it can even observe targets at near-infrared wavelengths to find out what minerals are in the regolith. You can’t do that in the video game yet, but you never know what upgrades there will be in the future.

Red Rover is now available on Steam for $4.99, and it even supports Oculus Rift for the ultimate immersive VR experience.

Not bad for a hardcore space enthusiast who, as a kid, thought humans would be living on Mars by now.

(via Discover Magazine)