Follow Mars Curiosity with Virtual Planetarium

While the Olympics are dominating the news right now, NASA will be making some exciting news of its own this weekend: NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on the Red Planet at 1:31 am EDT (5:31 am GMT) Monday, August 6.  Our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software can keep you up-to-date with the rover and its discoveries on the Red Planet!

The dramatic landing of Curiosity rivals anything the Olympics offers!  In a period of time described as “7 minutes of terror,” the spacecraft must slow down from 13,000 mph (21,000 km/h) as it enters the Martian atmosphere to 0 mph, soft-landing in a particular crater, next to a large Martian mountain.  During those 7 minutes the spacecraft will go through a very complex set of maneuvers, which are illustrated in this NASA video.  Moreover, the spacecraft will do this all by itself: Because it takes 14 minutes for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth, ground controllers cannot possibly control the spacecraft effectively through those crucial 7 minutes.  Instead, the spacecraft will use an onboard computer and radar to guide Curiosity to a precision landing.

Virtual Planetarium
You can follow the rover as it traverses Mars with our Virtual Planetarium software. This is a screenshot from the software's Solar System Update module showing an artist's rendition of the rover on the Martian surface.

Name A Star Live can keep you up-to-date with our Virtual Planetarium software!

A $39.95 value, Virtual Planetarium is seven great programs in one: interactive sky maps; a huge library of stunning astronomy imagery; information and images of the solar system and latest space events; and space weather reports about sun spots, auroras and more.

How to Update Virtual Planetarium

The software’s Solar System Update module already features information about Curiosity (see screenshot above).  Once Curiosity starts sending images back to Earth, Virtual Planetarium will display the more interesting Martian imagery and portal you to the latest online news from NASA.  All you’ll need to do is click on the “UPDATE DATA” button to keep up with all the new discoveries!  Here are even more detailed instructions:

  1. Open up “Space Update” ( or “Virtual Planetarium”) program. (It must be installed on your hard drive, not just on the DVD).
  2. Select “Solar system”
  3. In the upper right corner, select “Update Data”
  4. If it says “Outdated files detected” you can choose to “delete” or “keep” .  (Say “delete” to get rid of the old MSL caption – it will save it in a folder)
  5. It will then say “comparing old and new data”.  If you have a recent addition, it will find 16 new files (if you have an old edition, it may find more!)
  6. Select “Install new”. It shouldn’t take long to download.
  7. Close solar system part of the app.  (You can go to astronomy, for example).  Then when you return to solar system, the new images will be available.
  8. The new images can be seen by choosing solar system ->  Mars -> Missions -> Mars Science Laboratory

Virtual Planetarium sale!

In celebration of Curiosity‘s bold mission to Mars, we are offering a limited-time sale on Virtual Planetarium.  Click here where you can buy the software for only $29.95 from now through August 10!  You can order Virtual Planetarium delivered to you via a DVD, or for download off of our website.

How to Register Virtual Planetarium

Note that there are two ways to register your copy of Virtual Planetarium:

  1. If you install the software using the DVD, you’ll find the serial number written on the DVD.  The serial number starts with the letters “VP”.
  2. If you install the software via download from our website, then the registration key and serial number are made available to you at the moment you download. You can also retrieve these numbers by visiting our homepage ( and logging in to the “My Account” section of our website.