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Explore the red planet in Augmented Reality

Price: Free
Version: 1.03
Size: 1.3 GB
Developer: SN Digital
Platform: iPhone / iPad

Mission to Mars AR

NASA’s latest Mars mission is going just splendidly. After launching in July 2020, Perseverance, a car-sized rover, touched down on the red planet on 18th February 2021 and is now happily exploring our closest planetary neighbour in search of environments capable of supporting microbial life, evidence of historical life, the possibility of oxygen production on Mars, and, presumably, general adventure.

The app is packed with bits and pieces for learning and play

And now, thanks to a new app from the Smithsonian Channel, you’re able to get in on the adventure through the iPhone’s AR capabilities, allowing you to experience the rover, Mars, and even the rocket used to launch it in your own surroundings through your device’s camera.

The app allows you to do the classic AR-y things you’d expect, such as drive the rover across the surface of Mars, or place the rover in your own environment by plonking it on a desk or your floor.

Drive the rover around Mars

The animations really do look great and you can gaze over the faraway horizons as well as you can look at the rover intricately.

We also particularly enjoyed the Mars portal which allows you to, rather than placing a rover in your environment, place a portal right in front of you. Walk through it and you’ll find yourself on the surface of mars, with dust and rock all around you. Look back and you’ll see the tiny window back into the real world. Very cool.

Use your camera’s AR functionality to learn about Mars in your own environment

While the app could limit itself to the still slightly gimmicky AR novelties, the free app is actually packed full of stuff. You can learn about the various rovers, including the Perseverance’s predecessor, Curiosity, and take quizzes which in turn reward you with videos and extra content. These include real footage and interviews with those folks at NASA, discussing how the Mars missions came to be.

Elsewhere, the app gives you the opportunity to control the rover’s landing sequence in its ‘7 minutes of terror’ section as well as controlling the rover’s helicopter companion, Ingenuity, which is an experimental aircraft that will attempt the first powered flight on another planet as part of the Perseverance mission.

Use the portal mode to get your boots on the ground on the red planet

While we’d love one day to have an app like this that used real imagery captured by the rover to construct a more realistic environment, there’s no doubting this provides huge insight into the technology and the science whilst also being hugely entertaining.

For the first time in a long time, it feels like space is exciting again, and you can feel that excitement emanating from this impressive app.

Mission to Mars AR - virtually explore the red planet
A wonderfully detailed and well crafted experience
For
  • Packed with information and features
  • AR sequences are varied and well-executed
  • Fun AND educational!
Against
  • More 'real' images would be welcome
4.5Overall Score