NASA’s “Mars Rover Landing” Videogame: More than a fun minigame

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ven before they infamously shut down the space shuttle program, NASA has been using things like TV shows, YouTube videos, phone apps, and more to make space exploration more popular. After all, it’s where humans need to eventually go if we want to survive in the long run.

Here's one of the final stages on "Mars Rover Landing," where you delicately get the rover to touch down

As a part of that effort, NASA released a minigame on the Xbox Live Marketplace called Mars Rover Landing. It’s a short game which lets a player control the machines which get Mars rover Curiosity safely onto the surface of Mars. The cool part: you do it with the Kinect. And we love talking about Kinect.

But this is just a game, right? Wrong. You can infer a lot of insightful stuff from this move by NASA.

First of all, and maybe most obviously, it means NASA is trying to grow, which reflects the trend for a growing space-technology industry worldwide. Which means that if you’re interested in space engineering, you’re in luck because there may-well be plenty of jobs in the future, for you. Proof of that can also be seen by things like NASA’s other recent projects; the famous asteroid-mining company, Planetary Resources; PSU’s experimentation on the International Space Station; China’s ambitious goals for space and the moon, including mining asteroids just like Planetary Resources plans on doing; and many other space projects around the world.

An early stage, where you guide the lander into the martian atmosphere. Kinect games like this are fun to program, and fun to play.

But this also means something else: videogames have become so big that even the government is using them to get the public’s attention. This makes it clear, just how big the videogame industry is. And while the private market is traditionally very competitive, the rise of indie games and government-sponsored games mean it’s become a common medium of expression.

For you, this means that if you’re an aspiring programmer and videogame designer, by the time you’re out of college you’ll be entering an industry which is even bigger than it is today. And it’s already huge. Just read about some Kinect homebrew programs people have made to get an idea.

Just remember that there’s a difference between playing videogames and making them. Having a 2:1 ratio on an FPS game, or LoL, doesn’t make you a programmer. The reason programmers (especially game programmers) are so well-paid is because programmers are so well-studied. Being an avid gamer definitely helps you make games fun and good, but you’ve got to start programming games now, and practice. And keep practicing.

Mars rover Curiosity is just one of many future space-exploring robots that NASA needs to be designed, built and programmed.

NASA’s release of an Xbox videogame tells a lot about how things are now, and how they will be in the future:

Humanity knows that its ultimate home is space, and maybe another planet, and as resources on Earth slowly diminish, scientists and engineers are looking to space engineering to find a solution.

And not only does space exploration require programmers to control things like Mars rover Curiosity and its other parts, but the growing videogame industry is a great place for programmers to find jobs.

Or make their own.

Read on

  • Mars Rover Landing game on Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • Read about how free college textbooks are becoming easier to get. This is great for future college students studying engineering, as science textbooks are usually at least $100 and can even be more than $200 each.
  • Check out GameMaker, a great way for aspiring game programmers to both learn the basics of programming, and to create advanced games in the GML language. Free, or $40 for an extended version with more capabilities.
  • Check out our Teach Yourself Programming resources page. Links to all sorts of stuff which can help you learn to become a great programmer.
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One thought on “NASA’s “Mars Rover Landing” Videogame: More than a fun minigame

  1. Pingback: How Mars Rovers Can Actually Help Us On Earth | GetReal

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