No need to pack your bags, acquire driver’s license or get insurance.
Interplanetary explorers and space fans now have Google Mars and are in for a
good tour. They can view geographical features on Mars with a click of their
mouse on maps provided to Google by NASA.
The images were captured by NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor, probes
that are currently orbiting Mars. In collaboration with NASA researchers at
University, Google created scientific maps of Mars. Interplanetary explorers can see the
planet using three different types of maps: The shaded relief map shows
elevation and was generated with data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA)
on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft; it is color-coded by altitude. The
Visible map consists of a mosaic of images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)
on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, and finally there is a mosaic of
infrared images taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA's
Mars Odyssey spacecraft where warmer areas appear brighter, and colder areas are
darker. Clouds and dust in the atmosphere are transparent in the infrared.
Users can zoom in on any of the three maps to view geographical features such as
mountains, canyons, dunes and craters. The maps also pinpoint the locations of
unmanned space probes that have landed on Mars and mark the sites of previous
unmanned missions to Mars, including the final landing site of the British probe
Beagle 2, which launched in 2003 but failed on landing.
To whom do space enthusiasts owe this honor? The site was launched to celebrate
the 151st anniversary of the birth of Percival Lowell, an astronomer who mapped
and studied Mars in the 19th century, and is a joint collaboration between
Google and NASA.