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Play With the Mars Curiosity Rover on Your iPad/iPhone

Updated on December 23, 2014

It's a virtual reality 3d MAGIC TRICK!

Last night, while liveblogging the ENTIRE Mars Curiosity Rover Landing, I bookmarked NASA's free Spacecraft 3D app mentioned during the JPL broadcast.

I've now tested the app out, and it's a magic trick that every teacher and student in the country with access to an iPad/iPhone should try!

It puts the rover right in your hands. Look.

I just asked a neighbor to "hold" it so I could photograph it. But it's not really there!

Video Demo of Spacecraft 3D App in action - With my cat for scale

Sorry for video quality; I was holding a digital camera in one hand and the iPad in the other.

Above: photographing the virtual Curiosity Rover in front of my bathroom mirror, so you can see what's really there: my hand holding a piece of paper.

Here's how to get the virtual 3D rover for yourself... it's free!

  1. An iPhone or iPad. (In the broadcast, the JPL engineer said they're working on an Android version.)
  2. Download the Spacecraft 3D App.
  3. Open this Spacecraft 3D "MARKER" image in a spare window on your computer. (I downloaded the image from the app to my own website to save you a step).
  4. PRINT THE "MARKER" test PATTERN (I suggest using "Landscape Mode" on your printer.)
  5. In the Spacecraft 3D app, click "Select spacecraft" and choose the model you'd like to view.
  6. Hold your iPad/iPhone over the sheet of paper, wait a second or two, and...ta-da!
  7. Click the bottom of the screen and try out the buttons to play with the 3D model.
  8. Turn the paper, and the spacecraft will turn with it!
  9. Click the gear to pull up a zoom control and a "take photo" button.
  10. (Tip: You might want to print out on stiff paper or tape the printout to cardboard for classroom use. It would be REALLY fun to pass out multiple copies of the marker pattern so that everyone in a class could put the Mars Rover on their desk.)

That was just one of the many amazing things I learned during NASA's live broadcast of the Mars Curiosity Rover landing. There was also a free, 3D virtual reality explorer of the whole solar system right on JPL's website that let me "ride" the Curiosity spacecraft all the way in, watching it reach incredible speeds as it hurtled towards Mars!

Of course, there's more to the Curiosity Rover mission than fun virtual reality toys and simulations. I liveblogged the entire landing with LOTS of photos and as-it-happened screencaps of NASA's live broadcast. What actually happened during the "Seven Minutes of Terror"? Why is Curiosity on Mars, anyway? What were its first photos? When will it start taking color photos and driving around? And where can we find that free virtual reality explorer of the solar system on the web?

All this and more at...

Hot Wheels Mars Curiosity Rover CollectibleBUY NOW

Or buy it on eBay:

Here's my challenge to you: download the Spacecraft 3D app and try making the Mars Rover "land" somewhere interesting. Upload the photo to a host like Flickr or Picasa, then share the link to your "where no Mars rover has gone before" photo here!

How about a birthday cake topper? A hat?

Or, if you don't have an iPad/iPhone, share this page with friends and see where they can put Mars Curiosity Rover!

P.S. Feel free to "Pin" the above images on Pinterest!


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