MarsNew features in the WorldWide Telescope software, from NASA and Microsoft Research, lets users surf the dusty surface of Mars from their computers.

The online virtual telescope from Microsoft explores the universe using images that NASA spacecraft return from other worlds.

“We are enabling a whole new audience to experience the thrill of space,” said Chris C. Kemp, chief technology officer for information technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

With interactive images and new data from NASA, viewers will be able to explore mars virtually.  Users will even be able to make their own scientific discoveries.  It includes the highest resolution of any mars map,  realistic 3-D renderings of the surface of Mars, and a tour of Mars with two NASA scientists.

“Our hope is that this inspires the next generation of explorers to continue the scientific discovery process,” said Ames Center Director S. Pete Worden.

The WorldWide Telescope is a free program from Microsoft Research. It comes as either a web client or a program that users can download and run on their own Windows computer.  For more information, see: http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/WhatIs/WhatisWWT.aspx