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Rediscovering the red planet

White Rock software engineer Kip Warner has developed a program that allows users to view NASA photos from the 1970s that were previously unable to be viewed due to outdated technology. - Contributed photos
White Rock software engineer Kip Warner has developed a program that allows users to view NASA photos from the 1970s that were previously unable to be viewed due to outdated technology.
— image credit: Contributed photos

When White Rock software engineer Kip Warner set out to create a science-fiction video game set on Mars, he wanted to recreate the red planet as authentically as possible.

As he began his search for reference images for the particular area of Mars he wanted to focus on, he discovered a huge archive of images available publicly through NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, taken from the Viking lander, the first American craft to land on Mars in the late 1970s.

Unfortunately, the images had been electronically archived in the ’90s using technology that is no longer available, and weren’t accessible by modern computer software.

“They managed to take hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures, of different seasons, different times of day,” Warner explained. “The problem was, the way they had archived them, it was pretty well impossible to get access to them.”

Not content to pass up on the opportunity to utilize such rare and useful photographs, Warner embarked on the long and “challenging” process of reverse engineering software through which the images could be recovered.

“Once I finally got it working, it was incredible,” he said. “I was staring at sunrises and sunsets and sandstorms – things that no one has seen before.”

Since recovering the images, Warner – through his company, Cartesian Theatre – has released the open-source software, entitled Viking Lander Remastered, in DVD form, which allows the user to explore the extensive archive on his or her home computer.

Warner is selling the DVD as a crowd-sourced fundraising measure for the completion of his video game, Avaneya, which is in the early development stages.

“The game is still years away,” he said. “We’ve got all the characters and storyline in place. We’re looking at different options for taking things to the next level. We’re predicting that we need to raise about $2 million to finish it.”

Information about the game, as well as links to purchasing Viking Lander Remastered, is available at www.avaneya.com

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