NASA, Microsoft launch website on Mars

LOS ANGELES, November 17 — NASA and Microsoft Corp. have collaborated to create a Web site to allow earthlings to become Martians, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on Tuesday.

By surfing the “Be a Martian” Web site, internet users can have fun while advancing their knowledge of Mars, the JPL said in a press release.

The public will be able to participate as citizen scientists to improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet.

The Web site will also enable the public to explore details of the solar system’s grandest canyon, which resides on Mars, call up images in the Valles Marineris canyon before moving on to chart the entire Red Planet.

The collaboration of thousands of participants could assist scientists in producing far better maps, enabling smoother zoom-in views and easier interpretation of Martian surface changes.

By counting craters, the public also may help scientists determine the relative ages of small regions on Mars, according to the release.

In the past, counting Martian craters has posed a challenge because of the vast numbers involved. By contributing, Web site users will win game points assigned to a robotic animal avatar they select.

“Mars exploration inspires people of all ages, and we are especially eager to encourage young people to explore Mars for themselves,” said Charles Elachi, director of JPL in Pasadena, California. “We are delighted to be involved in providing the creative opportunity for future explorers to contribute to our understanding of Mars.”

“The beauty of this type of experience is that it not only teaches people about Mars and the work NASA is doing there, but it also engages large groups of people to help solve real challenges that computers cannot solve by themselves,” said Marc Mercuri, director of business innovation in the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft.

With a common goal of inspiring digital-age workforce development and life-long learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, NASA and Microsoft unveiled the Web site at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles this week, according to the release.