NASA hopes gamers won't let trained scientists hog all the fun of extraterrestrial discovery with the release of several games featuring the soon-to-land Mars rover, Curiosity. The space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced a Kinect-enabled landing game for Xbox 360 as well as a browser-based simulation of Curiosity's endeavors on the red planet.
The Kinect game is called Mars Rover Landing and is available for free on Xbox Live. It tasks users with guiding the rover's lander safely to the surface by controlling its thrusters with body movements. A Unity-enabled simulation will also allow users to view Curiosity's activities on Mars as the rover gathers information about whether Mars once had the capacity to support life. Another version allows players to navigate Curiosity's locomotion systems across a full 3D terrain map of Gale Crater, the rover's mission area.
"Because Mars exploration is fundamentally a shared human endeavor, we want everyone around the globe to have the most immersive experience possible," said Michelle Viotti, Mars public engagement manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA is offering beta access to the simulation in advance of Curiosity's landing, which is set for around 10:30 p.m. PDT on August 5.
Several other games and utilities will be released on PC and across mobile phones to promote awareness and enthusiasm for the landing and ensuing mission.