NASA rolls out big app upgrade as Mars rover mission turns 2

2014_07_NASA-Mars NASA rolled out a big app upgrade to commemorate the second anniversary of the Mars Curiosity’s landing on Mars. (Graphic Courtesy of NASA)

As a celebration of the two-year anniversary of the Mars Curiosity Rover landing, NASA released an update to its 3-D Spacecraft app that features a bunch of new content from the rover’s explorations.

The augmented reality app now offers four new 3-D models of NASA spacecraft that users can interact with and a new image book published by National Geographic.


Before the update, users needed to use an augmented reality target to interact with the models, according to NASA:

“Augmented reality overlays visual content, like 3-D spacecraft models, onto the real-world view from a device’s camera. To view the app’s content, users can print a special target image on a standard sheet of paper. When the device’s camera is pointed at the target, the spacecraft chosen by the user appears onscreen as if it were in the scene.”

Now users can interact with the models in “manual mode,” allowing them to explore them without the need for a target.

The book packaged with the update, titled “Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission,” includes photos from Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity, Curiosity’s Descent Stage and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission.

“Spacecraft 3D makes it so easy for anyone to experience the magic of these spacecraft and the excitement of space exploration,” said Tom Soderstrom, chief technology officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the app was developed. “We think the app will enhance the experience of learning about these missions, for all ages, for years to come.”


As the second anniversary passed on Aug. 5, NASA chronicled the work the Curiosity Rover has completed and what scientists have been doing in the past few weeks:

“Another recent challenge appeared last week in the form of unexpected behavior by an onboard computer currently serving as backup. Curiosity carries duplicate main computers. It has been operating on its B-side computer since a problem with the A-side computer prompted the team to command a side swap in February 2013. Work in subsequent weeks of 2013 restored availability of the A-side as a backup in case of B-side trouble. In July, fresh commanding of the rover was suspended for two days while engineers confirmed that the A-side computer remains reliable as a backup.”

The Spacecraft 3D app is available on both iOS and Android platforms. You can see all of NASA’s app offerings here.

Greg Otto

Written by Greg Otto

Greg Otto is Editor-in-Chief of CyberScoop, overseeing all editorial content for the website. Greg has led cybersecurity coverage that has won various awards, including accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Greg worked for the Washington Business Journal, U.S. News & World Report and WTOP Radio. He has a degree in broadcast journalism from Temple University.

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