This has been a big week for Mars with the new NASA discovery of flowing water on the red planet, and the release of a blockbuster movie “The Martian” based on the New York Times best seller of the same name by Andy Weir and starring Matt Damon. An excellent book by the way! So, this is a good time to remind everyone that Google Earth also can portray Mars just like it does for the Earth. Mars in Google Earth has a fantastic archive of data from NASA (and other sources) from orbital imaging platforms, and Mars landers including 3D terrain, global imagery, high resolution orbital imagery, lander photos, and even lander 360 panoramas. The lander locations and tracks can be viewed, as well as their last known positions. Most of the data is current showing even the latest position of Curiosity and Opportunity. Mars for Google Earth only works in the desktop application (not on Google Earth for mobile).
To get started, you simply look for the little planet icon at the top center of Google Earth and click on it for a list of options including Mars (you’ll see there are also versions for Sky and Moon). Click on Mars, and the Earth globe will turn into Mars. Mars was released in February 2009 (see original Mars review).
See below for my original video review of what Mars for Google Earth is really like:
You can spend hours exploring Mars and the layers Google created to explore the data from the various landers and orbiters. I especially enjoy the panoramas by Opportunity and Curiosity. An important tip if you want to explore the panoramas is that you might need to expand the time slider selectors that appear in the upper left so they show the full time span. Otherwise the panoramas may load up invisible until you find the time when it was taken.
And here’s a cool trick even long-time users of Google Earth might not have discovered. Fans know that Google Earth has a built-in flight simulator (read more), well you can also use the flight simulator on Mars! Kind a fun to fly around the crater at the top of Mons Olympus, or through the huge canyon of Valleris Maneris. Just look for the menu choice “View->Flight Simulator”. I recommend the F-16 for faster flying. You’ll need to learn the flight simulator a bit to fly well. Here’s a view of flying on Mars.
I’m planning to see the movie this weekend. Can’t wait to see it!
About Frank Taylor
Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.