NASA’s really playing up their excitement for Curiosity’s arrival on Mars next month, and why wouldn’t they? For the spectating EDL engineers, it’ll be an intense seven minutes of nail-biting trepidation. They’ve already released a dramatic video presentation to help themselves cope.
But, wanting to amp up the mission’s exposure even more, today NASA released a free Xbox Live Kinect game called Mars Rover Landing, which brings those seven minutes right into your (hopefully spacious) living room.
I gave it a shot out of (aheh) curiosity, and thought it was cool. It’s a motion-controlled shout-out to the classic Lunar Lander for Atari, in which you experience each stage of the rover’s descent onto Martian soil.
First, you’ll step side to side, forward and backward, to keep the heat shield aligned as it enters Mars’s atmosphere. After you’re clear, you’ll need to jettison the heat shield, eject the back shell, and launch your parachute. You’ll do so by using your hands to fire the charges.
Finally, you’ll use your hands again to manage the rocket thrusters of the “back shell powered descent vehicle” as Curiosity dangles from its tethers, and guide the rover softly to its landing spot. You’ve got to be quick, though, because there’s a limited amount of fuel.
It’s all pretty simple, but the game grades you on things like landing accuracy and structural integrity. I tried it a few times just to see if I could do any better, so there is some replay value.
Really, it’s more of an interactive presentation of the descent, and not a simulation of what’s actually going to happen (perhaps similar to NASA’s previous space game for PC, Moonbase Alpha). No one will be controlling anything via motion-controls as the rover lands, anyway.
But, for what it is, Mars Rover Landing is definitely worth a look if you have an Xbox 360 and Kinect.