NASA has unveiled a free game that lets players try their hand at driving the Curiosity Mars rover.
Curiosity landed in the Gale Crater on the Red Planet four years ago. The game is supposed to get people excited about what the rover is doing now, and also about what its successor will do.
The next rover should go up in 2020. It will be able to use radar to search for underground water—something that’s represented in this game. (What’s not represented is the microphones that will be on board to capture the sounds of Mars.)
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The game is playable on Android and iOS, and is also available for desktop users. It’s available through the Gamee app, which lets people play games against and share scores with their friends.
“We’re excited about a new way for people on the go to engage with Curiosity’s current adventures on Mars and future exploration by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover too,” said Michelle Viotti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The interest that is shared through gameplay also helps us open a door to deeper literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
The U.S. space agency is also due to launch a virtual reality “Mars 2030 Experience” this fall, for VR viewers such as Google’s (GOOG) Cardboard, Samsung’s (SSNLF) Gear VR and Facebook’s (FB) Oculus Rift.
NASA hopes to be able to send real people up to Mars in the 2030s, though Congress has been working to defund some of its efforts. In the meantime, private companies such as SpaceX want to start sending unmanned spacecraft there in a couple years’ time.
NASA said Thursday that Curiosity is currently investigating the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater, in an effort to find out more about how terrain with fresh water evolved into the arid landscape there today.
For more on Mars, watch our video.
In its first year of operation, the rover successfully examined what used to be a freshwater lake, helping researchers to establish that it had what was needed to support microbial life.
Here’s a NASA video explaining what Curiosity has been up to more recently: