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10 Things: March 13
10 Things: March 13
13 Mar 2017
(Source: NASA)

Ten Tools for the Armchair Astronaut: How to Explore the Solar System from Home

We live during one of the great eras of exploration. At this very moment, there are dozens of spacecraft surveying the solar system, from Mars, to Saturn, to beyond Pluto. What's more, you can ride along with these expeditions--all you need is an Internet connection to see the latest discoveries from deep space. For this week's edition of 10 Things, we've assembled a toolkit of 10 essential resources for the desktop astronaut:

1. It's Like Facebook, but for the Solar System
Or is it more of a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Solar System? Whatever you want to call it, our Planets page offers quick rundowns, as well as in-depth guides, for all the major bodies in the solar system, plus comets, asteroids and more. Explore from the sun all the way out to the Oort Cloud.

+ Peruse the planets (and even speculate about a potential "Planet X")
+ See how objects in the solar system stack up against each other

2. Keep Your Eyes on This One
Credit: NASA/JPL
If you still haven't tried Eyes on the Solar System, you're missing out. This free, downloadable simulation app lets you tour the planets and track the past, current and future positions of spacecraft--all in 3D. Eyes on the Solar System uses real NASA data to help you take a virtual flight across both space and time.

+ Prepare for departure

3. Dateline: Deep Space
Credit: NASA
With so much exploration underway, discoveries and new insights into the solar system come at a pace that borders on bewildering. NASA is rewriting the textbooks, literally, on a regular basis. Relax, though: there are several easy ways to stay up to date with what's happening in space.

+ See the latest headlines
+ Stay connected on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
+ Find more top NASA social media accounts

4. Need More Space? There's an App for That
Credit: NASA
NASA offers phone and tablet apps for star gazing, pictures, news, 3D tours, satellite tracking, live NASA TV and many other kinds of info.

+ Start downloading
+ See other cool apps

5. A (Very) Long Distance Call
NASA is in constant communication with spacecraft all over the solar system. The Deep Space Network (DSN) is a global network of giant anntenna dishes that makes it possible. With this online app, you can learn how it works--and even see which spacecraft are phoning home right now.

+ Deep Space Network (DSN) Now

6. Collect 'Em All
Color image of man with virtual spacecraft model on his shoulder.
Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone poses with a virtual model of the spacecraft on his shoulder in this image taken with the Spacecraft 3D app.
Spacecraft 3D is an augmented reality (AR) application that lets you learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth and observe the universe. Print out the AR target and your camera will do the rest, making the spacecraft appear in 3D right in front of you. Learn more about these robotic explorers as they pop up on your desk, in your hand, or on your dog's head.

+ Download Spacecraft 3D
+ See more cool 3-D resources from NASA

7. Ever Wanted to Drive a Mars Rover?
This site will give you a 3D look at the Mars Curiosity rover, along with some of the terrain it has explored. It will even let you take the controls.

+ Experience Curiosity

8. More E-Ticket Attractions
Credit: NASA/JPL
But wait, there's more. NASA offers a variety of other fascinating (and free) online experiences, all based on actual data from real missions. Here are a few to explore:

+ Mars Trek
+ Vesta Trek
+ Moon Trek

9. The Universe Is Our Classroom
Credit: NASA
Studying the solar system makes for a compelling route into learning and teaching science, engineering and math. We have some great places to start.

+ Find resources for teachers
+ Build your own solar system with your classroom

10. Bring It on Home
Credit: NASA
After you've toured the far reaches solar system, you can always come home again. When you have spent time studying the harsh conditions on our neighboring planets, the charms of a unique paradise come into sharp focus, the place we call Earth.

+ Watch a real-time video feed from Earth orbit
+ See a daily global view of our planet from a million miles away
+ Hold the earth in your hands with the Earth Now mobile app

See previous editions of 10 Things.

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