NASA and Microsoft launch 'explore Mars' website

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Be a Martian The website allows members of the public to help scientists perform research tasks such as improving maps of the red planet.

"We're at a point in history where everyone can be an explorer," Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said.

"With so much data coming back from Mars missions that are accessible by all, exploring Mars has become a shared human endeavor.

"People worldwide can expand the specialized efforts of a few hundred Mars mission team members and make contributions or authenticate their own," he added.

Users can, for example, count craters on Mars, NASA said a task had posed a challenge in the past because of the fixed numbers involved.

"The collaboration of thousands of participants could help scientists produce far better maps," NASA and Microsoft said in a joint statement.

"There's so much data coming back from Mars. Having a wider crowd look at the data, classify it and help understand its meaning is very important," said Michelle Viotti, director of Mars Public Outreach at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"We're also hung accompli something important for NASA."

"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 can not solve by themselves," said Marc Mercuri, Microsoft's director of business innovation.

The site hosts hundreds of thousands of pictures of Mars, including many which have never before been released to the public.

It features a "virtual town hall" where users can have questions answered by experts and Mars offers prizes to software developers who create tools that provide access to online images for Mars, Mars mission team and classroom use.

The website is located at

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