Space Apps 2016 Exeter Mars Rover Simulator

“How did you fix it? Meh, it just worked.”

Space Apps Exeter2016 Steamphunk Team

Such is the life of hackers powering through a hackathon. The tweet above went out in the midst of the Space Apps Challenge 2016 weekend, when over 15,000 programmers, engineers, artists, and more collaborated on nearly 1,200 solutions to the 25 challenges posed by space scientists from NASA, the ESA, and other space agencies.

Of course, with so many remarkable solutions, it’s hard to highlight only some. As we wrote previously in an earlier blogpost, the Open Innovation team provided—compliments of SSERVI and the JPL Trek Team—a series of imagery APIs powering Mars Trek and Vesta Trek on These APIs were offered as resources for two Space Apps challenges in the Solar System category: Vesta Revealed and Open World Generation Using Mars and Vesta Data.

Thirteen teams answered the Open World challenge, which dared teams to leverage altimeter, terrain, and imagery data to create a custom world map generator of Mars or Vesta. Of the 13 solutions—diverse applications of data, from a Mars rover simulator to Minecraft plug-ins—seven are finalists to compete in global judging. 

Solar Atlas, a solution from Irvine, CA, that is a Global Nominee, simulates 3D Martian terrain by converting Mars Trek data images into altimeter data where light and dark surfaces indicate higher and lower topography, respectively. The result is an interactive environment in which the user can modify the effects of gravity, scale, atmosphere, and more.

The Mars Rover Simulator simulates exploration of the Martian surface by Curiosity by using the Unity3D game engine to load World Map Tile Service data.  This solution won the Steamphunk team—also the authors of the quoted tweet above—the Best Use of Data award at its Exeter, United Kingdom location and also earned global nomination.

Space Apps Exeter 2016 Mars Rover Simulator Best Use of Data nominee

Also earning the Global Nominee title are the SpaceMonkeys from Buenos Aires, shown here hard at work on their solution, The Mars Experience, an immersive virtual reality environment utilizing Google Cardboard and the Unity3D platform. The Mars Experience also features educational tidbits about the Sun as well as Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Tweet: Space Apps Baires 2016 Space Monkeys team at work

The People’s Choice winning team based in Koper, Slovenia created eXoCraft, a suite of tools that converts Solar System terrain maps into Minecraft maps by extracting altimetry information from gray-scale data. In addition to creating custom elevation maps for Vesta, the team also created environments for Saturn’s moon, Titan, and parts of Mercury!

 Check out the Project Solutions page for the Open World challenge to see the rest of the amazing solutions submitted last week!

 Remember, judging for Global Nominees and People’s Choice is ongoing (read more about the judging process here), so check the Space Apps website often for announcements and news!



About Veronica

Ronnie has been enthusiastically showcasing NASA data as a member of NASA's Open Data team since 2013. She supports NASA's open source efforts by helping to curate and administrate datasets on NASA's Open Data Portal and Open Source Code Catalog, managing citizen and internal requests for NASA data, contributing to the Space Data Daily Open NASA blog, teaching Datanauts courses, and coordinating logistics and data support for the International Space Apps Challenge hackathons.