NASA’s Augmented Reality iPad App Brings Space Robots to Life

NASA’s Spacecraft 3D app, which is perfect for any space enthusiast, uses animation to demonstrate how spacecraft maneuver and manipulate their components to complete successful space missions.

Currently, the app features two of NASA’s missions: the Curiosity rover that will land on Mars on August 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT and the twin GRAIL spacecraft Ebb and Flow, which currently orbit the moon.

“With Spacecraft 3D and a mobile device, you can put high definition three-dimensional models literally into the hands of kids of all ages,” said Stephen Kulczycki, deputy director for communications and education at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The app is an augmented reality app, which allows users to view their real world environments with the iDevice camera. Real world views are then enhanced with additions of new elements from the app.

In Spacecraft 3D, the iPad camera is used to overlay information on the main screen of the device. It shows users how to print an augmented reality target on a sheet of paper, and when the iPad camera is pointed at the prepared target, a user-picked spacecraft is displayed on the screen.

This kind of technology can be used to fully explore NASA spacecraft, such as the Curiosity Mars rover. After being projected onto the target, the spacecraft moves in 3D, so users can explore every angle as the rover moves around on the screen.

You can also use the app to take customized pictures with the rover or GRAIL spacecraft.

NASA has plans to add other spacecraft to the app, such as the Cassini, orbiting near Saturn, the Dawn spacecraft, which is in the asteroid belt, and the Voyagers, which are at the edge of the solar system.

NASA’s Spacecraft 3D app can be downloaded for free onto your iPad and iPhone from Apple’s App Store.

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  • Captain ZADL

    It’s neat, but having to print out an AR marker instead of just being able to manipulate the model on the screen is a bit annoying, imo.