Mike Stevens | Aug 16, 2012

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has been the darling of the internet this month, giving generations X and Y a small taste of the excitement felt around the world on July 20, 1969.

It will be sometime before humankind sets foot on Mars, but a new online simulator gives enthusiastic onlookers back on Earth the opportunity to take Curiosity out for a spin.

Explore Mars: Free Drive is a web-based simulator that loads in your browser and puts you in control of the rover's journey across an accurate-as-can-be Martian terrain.

The simulator will let you explore points of interest that include the landing site at Gale Crater, along with surrounding canyons, dunes and fractures.

You'll also note that Curiosity's six wheels will interact with the map, allowing you to rip out some (fairly slow) doughnuts, or write your name on the surface of the far-off world.

Explore Mars may be as close as most of us will get to touching down on the red planet, so set aside a few minutes and let your imagination run free.

Well, free inside a virtual robotic rover, at least. Explore Mars: Free Drive.

(In the words of Total Recall's Quaid: "Get your ass to Mars." - Ed)

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