NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed an app that leverages augmented reality (AR) to bring distant space probes back to Earth, at least for some time.

The app, dubbed Spacecraft AR, produces 3D models of robotic space explorers or rovers, which you can see on any given flat surface through your smartphone. It was developed as part of a collaborative effort between the space agency and Google and can currently bring Curiosity Mars rover, Juno, Cassini, and Voyager spacecraft back home in a matter of minutes.

In addition, viewers can also explore NASA’s giant 70-meter Deep Space Network dish on the app, according to a statement from the space agency.

Spacecraft AR combines Google’s ARCore technology with built-in capabilities of a smartphone to interact with surrounding environments and produce realistic models on its screen. All one has to do is select the mission and spacecraft exploring Earth, Mars, or any other planet and point the device towards a flat surface, which could be integrated with the model.

Once the image is produced, users can share it directly or check detailed information of the selected mission. The app also carries an option which users can use to see the true-scale of NASA’s space explorers. However, in order to use it, you’ll first need a big, open space where the actual size of the spacecraft could fit in.

ar20180320-16 The free Spacecraft AR app uses Google ARCore technology to depict virtual 3-D models of NASA robotic spacecraft, such as the Curiosity Mars rover seen here. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

All models produced in the app use high-quality 3D images, but unlike Spacecraft 3D – another NASA app based on the same images – the new one works a lot better, without being limited to one specific surface.

"The Spacecraft AR app is an exciting new way to get up close and personal with NASA's robotic missions," Kevin Hussey, manager of JPL's visualization team, which developed Spacecraft 3-D and worked on the new app with Google, said in a statement. "We can't wait for people to try it, and we're looking forward to adding many more spacecraft to the app in the future."

Users can get the NASA app from Google Play Store. However, it is worth noting the current version only works on Android devices supporting ARCore tech. The space agency plans to add additional device compatibility, including iOS support, and more models of space probes in the near future, but there was no word when this might actually happen.

The latest move from NASA comes as augmented reality platforms inch toward serving as something more than a tool for gaming and entertainment, be it in the field of e-commerce where users could try on clothes or astronomy, like in this case.