Moffett Field (CA) - NASA and Google announced today the release of a new "Mars mode" in Google Earth which allows for high-resolution views of red planet's surface. The first of its kind based on real data from any non-Earth body, this new feature on Google's popular 3D viewer will kick-start the imaginations of millions world-wide.
"Mars mode" on Google Earth
The new mode "enables users to fly virtually through enormous canyons and scale huge mountains on Mars that are much larger than any found on Earth. Users also can explore the Red Planet through the eyes of the Mars rovers and other Mars missions, providing a unique perspective of the entire planet," according to NASA's press release.
Scientists will be able to use the new tool to share information about our neighbor. According to NASA, "Besides providing a rich, immersive 3D view of Mars that will aid public understanding of Mars science, the new mode, Google Mars 3D, also gives researchers a platform for sharing data similar to what Google Earth provides for Earth scientists."
The satellite imagery used to provide high resolution surface images comes from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as other probes in orbit around Mars.
The agreement was originally signed with Google in November 2006, and now brings to fruition the results of over two years' work. NASA said, "[This work] is the latest benefit from a Space Act Agreement NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., signed with Google in November 2006. Under its terms, NASA and Google agreed to collaborate to make NASA's data sets available to the world."
NASA Ames and Google were aided by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, SETI, as well as other institutions, to produce the data and make the "Mars Mode" in Google Earth possible.
For a close-up view of Mars, see our 16 image slideshow - Surface images from the twin Mars rovers.
In addition, the Google Earth Beta 5 version (link below) allows users to explore the 3D ocean floor, visiting mountains, valleys and vistas all under sometimes miles of water.