On Friday, a colleague from Wired reached out to me to see about getting Curiosity Rover GPS tracks to use in a map.
A traditional way of extracting this location information is to use SPICE data provided by NASA’s Navigation and Ancillary and Information Facility (NAIF). SPICE data is very detailed but a technical challenge to use for someone like me, who does not get to hack on planetary data all day, every day. Luckily, I found another way to get this information.
When I was in San Francisco last month for the Mozilla/KQED Mars Hackathon, a colleague mentioned the Mars Science Laboratory’s raw imagery JSON feeds. These feeds are regularly updated and provide records to all of the images captured by the Rover, by day. It took a bit of data wrangling to get the rover’s daily location information (stored in a separate XML file from the image JSON feeds) to play nicely with the image feeds, but once they did, I had a geospatial and photographic record of the Rover’s incredible past year.
A semi-opaque yellow line shows the Rover’s overall journey so far. Markers along the way denote Sols (day on the planet) for which I had location data. Visitors can either click on a marker on the path, or scroll through the overlay on the right to follow the rover as it journeys across the red planet.
Along the journey, a spotlight layer highlights the marker corresponding to the Sol described in the legend. The legend displays an image for each stop along the rover’s path. Visitors can click on the image to see it in full-resolution at NASA/JPL, or click the link below it to see all of the images captured by the rover on that particular day.
The map site has a detailed Learn More section. Here, visitors can find information about the datasets used to make the map. I’ve included a methodology section describing how I generated the rover tracks dataset. My processing script, written in python, is publicly available on Github.