You Can Follow NASA's Perseverance Rover Through Space in Real Time
The rover launched in July, but you can see how far it's gone already through a NASA app.
NASA's Perseverance rover launched toward the red planet weeks ago, but it's only at the beginning of the journey that will ultimately see it land on the Martian surface on February 18, 2021. That might seem like slow progress, but it's a journey of tens of millions of miles.
So, how far has it gone in the few weeks since launch? NASA's glad you asked. The Agency's Eyes on the Solar System app will let you follow in real-time as the rover races toward the solar system's fourth planet. The interactive visualization allows you to move around the solar system and see far more than Perseverance (labeled as Mars 2020) and other spacecraft traversing parts unseen.
"Eyes on the Solar System visualizes the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance's course to Mars," Fernando Abilleira, the Mars 2020 mission design and navigation manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. "If you want to follow along with us on our journey, that's the place to be."
The app is loaded with a variety of ways to see from the perspective of spacecraft. You can also move back through time. You can use data that goes back to 1950 as well as projections that stretch out to 2050. See a spacecraft's flight trajectory, zoom in on the Parker Solar Probe, or even check on the path of Comet Hale-Bopp if you'd like. It even has features that allow you to compare the size of celestial objects to get a sense of how Mars might compare to the Earth or how the enormity of the sun dwarfs all other planets.
You can also use the "size compare" tool on spacecraft to see how they compare to each other or how Mars 2020 compares to the Rose Bowl Stadium or a bus. As absurd as it is to see a bus floating in space, it's useful context. (Okay, it's not as absurd as it might have been before 2018.)
"With all our orbital assets circling Mars as well as Curiosity and InSight on its surface, there is new data and imagery coming in all the time about the red planet," said Jon Nelson, visualization technology and applications development supervisor at JPL. "Essentially, if you haven't seen Mars lately through Eyes on the Solar System, you haven't seen Mars."
To get a grasp of all of the possibilities inside the app, you really just have to start playing around inside Eyes on the Solar System.