NVIDIA today announced that NASA is using its technology to
reconstruct Martian terrain from transmitted rover data in photorealistic
virtual reality, allowing scientists to explore Mars in 3D as if they were
actually moving freely on the planet’s surface. This NVIDIA-powered environment
serves as a precise vision and planning system for NASA scientists, allowing
them to rehearse a variety of Mars rover scenarios, mapping out moves and
experiments, prior to directing the vehicle to undertake actual tasks by
"flying" through highly realistic, 3D reconstructions of the Martian surface.

NASA scientists use NVIDIA graphics to visualize high
resolution photographic imagery more than three times as detailed as images sent
from Sojourner in 1997. Because the new rovers travel six to ten times farther
than Sojourner, taking approximately 6,000 to 10,000 more measurements per foot,
the data visualized with NVIDIA graphics is transformed into a particularly
detailed, visually-enhanced representation of the planet’s terrain. Each day
rover missions are underway, one group of NASA scientists focus on that day’s
rover operation while another plans the following day’s activities by studying
and interacting with this graphically rendered photographic and measurement data
— taken from targeted, but as yet unexplored Martian terrain.

NVIDIA today announced that NASA is using its technology to
reconstruct Martian terrain from transmitted rover data in photorealistic
virtual reality, allowing scientists to explore Mars in 3D as if they were
actually moving freely on the planet’s surface. This NVIDIA-powered environment
serves as a precise vision and planning system for NASA scientists, allowing
them to rehearse a variety of Mars rover scenarios, mapping out moves and
experiments, prior to directing the vehicle to undertake actual tasks by
"flying" through highly realistic, 3D reconstructions of the Martian surface.

"NVIDIA technology allows NASA to visualize the Martian
terrain in photorealistic virtual reality, greatly enhancing scientists’
understanding of the environment and streamlining analysis," said Laurence
Edwards, Mars team lead for 3D visualization and surface reconstruction from
NASA Ames Research Center. "With this capability, scientists step into a
visually engaging model of the planet’s surface and interactively study multiple
perspectives — front, back, side views — of every object the rovers
investigate to fully explore all options for rover routes and experiments."

NASA scientists use NVIDIA graphics to visualize high resolution photographic
imagery more than three times as detailed as images sent from Sojourner in 1997.
Because the new rovers travel six to ten times farther than Sojourner, taking
approximately 6,000 to 10,000 more measurements per foot, the data visualized
with NVIDIA graphics is transformed into a particularly detailed,
visually-enhanced representation of the planet’s terrain. Each day rover
missions are underway, one group of NASA scientists focus on that day’s rover
operation while another plans the following day’s activities by studying and
interacting with this graphically rendered photographic and measurement data —
taken from targeted, but as yet unexplored Martian terrain.

"NVIDIA graphics allow NASA scientists to interactively plan rover movements
using 3D photorealistic views of the surface so commands transmitted to rovers
result in successful experiments and data gathering," said Edwards. "Data
transmissions from Mars involve massive amounts of image data that must be
quickly viewed, studied, and shared. Three-dimensional visualization in
photorealistic virtual reality is the most effective way to maximize distance
traveled and knowledge gained."

Two NASA rovers, Spirit, which landed on Mars on January 3, 2004, and
Opportunity, which is scheduled to land on January 24, 2004, will explore
locations that suggest the one-time presence of water. By converting the data
collected from cameras and scientific instruments on the rovers into knowledge
through visualization, NVIDIA graphics technology help NASA scientists learn
more about the history of water on Mars in the hopes of determining whether life
currently exists on or beneath the surface.

"Today, with this new technology, NASA can simulate the lighting and surface
conditions expected on Mars when an experiment is to be conducted," said
Edwards. "If a rock will cast a shadow, obscuring a feature of interest,
scientists on the ground will know about this effect in advance and plan around
it. In the future, we envision scientists sitting within a large wrap-around
display and programming rover movements and experiments using simple
touch-screen or voice commands."

NVIDIA technology also allows NASA to share the knowledge gained from rover
missions with the world community. Scientists worldwide can access and study the
largest and most topographically accurate 3D models ever constructed during
remote space exploration and, with the routine posting of 3D images on the Web,
the public can virtually participate in the search for life on Mars.