NASA wants you to explore the asteroid Vesta
Vesta is the second largest body in the asteroid belt after the dwarf planet Ceres. It makes up about 9-percent of the asteroid belt’s entire mass, and it is the last remaining rocky protoplanet.
And you can explore it yourself right now.
NASA has released a new web-based application that offers a detailed visualization of Vesta. The program is called Vesta Trek. It can be accessed for free, and is designed for students and scientists to explore Vesta. Or anyone with a little bit of free time and a fascination with space. Or rocks, if that’s more your thing.
The program was created from the footage taken from the recent Dawn spacecraft, which is currently exploring Ceres. According to NASA, the program includes:
- Interactive maps with the ability to overlay a growing range of data sets including topography, mineralogy, abundance of elements and geology, as well as analysis tools for measuring the diameters, heights and depths of surface features and more.
- 3-D printer-exportable topography so users can print physical models of Vesta’s surface.
- Standard keyboard gaming controls to maneuver a first-person visualization of “flying” across the surface of the asteroid.
Vesta Trek was developed by NASA’s Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project (LMMP), which has previously focused specifically on the moon. This is the first model the group created for a body other than the moon. It is currently working on other models for different bodies in the solar system.
“There’s nothing like seeing something with your own eyes, but these types of detailed data-visualizations are the next best thing,” said Kristen Erickson, Director, Science Engagement and Partnerships at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. “We’re thrilled to release Vesta Trek to the citizen science community and the public, not only as a scientific tool, but as a portal to an immersive experience that, just by the nature of it, will allow a deeper understanding of Vesta and asteroids in general.”
You can check out the program HERE (http://vestatrek.jpl.nasa.gov/).