Explore the Martian surface with NASA’s Street View-style 360-degree imagery

Fancy visiting Mars before your descendants get there? Well, you can. Sort of.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory just uploaded a pretty cool 360-degree view (above) of the Martian surface, allowing you to check out the planet in all its dusty red glory.

Captured by the space agency’s Curiosity rover, the panoramic imagery offers an experience that’s sure to have Google’s Street View team drooling with envy.

The immersive picture puts us at Namib Dune – the site of Curiosity’s recent “armless selfie” – and offers a view of a part of Mount Sharp on the horizon.

Although it’s viewable as a YouTube video, don’t expect a whole lot of action. There isn’t too much happening on the red planet, and anyway, the view is actually a composite of numerous images snapped by the rover rather than the work of a multi-lens video camera.

While you can drag the picture around in your desktop browser, you’ll enjoy the experience a whole lot more if you check it out via your smartphone, moving around to explore the entire scene within Curiosity’s view.

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NASA actually posted a version of the image on Facebook at the end of last month. However, the stitching method resulted in a distorted, confusing picture. As you’ll see if you compare the two, this week’s reposted version offers a far superior and much more realistic view.

Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012, has recently been gathering sand samples for lab analysis. The task is part of an ongoing experiment to learn more about how Martian winds shift sand around the planet, helping to give researchers back on Earth more information about its environment, which could prove vital for any future manned missions to the planet.

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