For those who’ve abandoned all hope of making this planet a better one, Mars seems like a pretty good option. If you don’t have billions of dollars or a steady stream of investors to build your own rocket, Google and NASA have created the next best thing.

“Access Mars” is an experiment that allows users to navigate themselves along the red planet, without the cost or dangers of an actual trip. The 3D model is based on digital images taken by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, which were pieced together by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Google and NASA teamed up to make this Martian replica accessible to Earthlings via Google Cardboard, Daydream, Gear VR, Oculus and HTC Vive. But if you don’t have access to VR gadgetry, no worries — you can still “Access Mars” on your web browser.

Those curious — no pun intended — can visit four spots where NASA’s rover ventured, including Curiosity’s landing site, Murray Buttes, Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills, and Mount Sharp. Users can click various access points to find out more information on specific Martian features. There are even fun little descriptions for each geographical oddity!

If you’re using Access Mars in a web browser, it’s a little tricky to navigate the the terrain, so make sure you actually read the instructions in the beginning of the video. This was my first mistake when trying out the experiment, so heed my warning and spare yourself the embarrassment.

Besides being fun for us wannabe Martians, Access Mars is actually useful for NASA. The agency says this 3D model could help it figure out the rest of Curiosity’s mission. NASA initially thought the rover would run only two years, but its mission has since been extended indefinitely. So having an intricate 3D map is a pretty good way to plan for Curiosity’s future, and potentially, other missions to Mars.

If you can look past some of Access Mars’ wonkiness, there’s a lot of interesting Martian geography to explore. Plus, it’s ready a hell of a lot sooner than whatever Elon Musk has planned.


If you liked this article, check out this video that proves life could exist on mars.