Google sent out invitations last night to the media for an event to be held in Washington DC on July 20th – the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. The event is about the “…newest addition to Google Earth”. Given the list of speakers (Buzz Aldrin – Apollo 11 astronaut, NASA dignitaries, Anousheh Ansari – first private female space explorer, and Andrew Chaiken – author of “A Man on the Moon”), there can be little doubt what this is about. And, GEB definitely plans to attend the event!
In the summer of 2007, Google released an updated Google Moon – the 2D version for Google Maps. At the same time, Google announced the $30 Million Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP). When the new Google Moon released, GEB immediately speculated on how soon Google Earth would have a 3D version of the moon (see the last part of this article on the GLXP announcement). So, I’m pretty confident we’ll be seeing the release of a 3D Moon mode for Google Earth. Google released a 3D Mars mode for Google Earth earlier this year. So, the moon is naturally going to be next. And, for the record, NASA has their own virtual globe application called WorldWind which has had a 3D moon mode available for several years now.
Google will surely make use of NASA Apollo mission imagery (panoramas, video, and stills – like in the 2D Google Moon), and hopefully HD video of the moon from the Japanese JAXA SELENE mission. More importantly, I’m sure we’ll see some nice 3D terrain for the moon. I think it may be too early to expect imagery from the new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – which just started being operational two weeks ago (but, I’d be glad to be surprised).