February 5, 2009 Anyone not familiar with Google’s virtual globe program Google Earth would have to have been living on another planet – maybe Mars. But a new initiative by Google and NASA might pique even Martian interest with the advent of a Mars mode in Google Earth 5. Google Mars 3D brings the red, red hills of home to any Earth bound Martian’s desktop and enables users to fly virtually through enormous canyons and scale huge mountains on Mars, higher than any found on Earth.

Besides providing a three-dimensional 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. Users also can explore the Red Planet through the eyes of the Mars rovers and other Mars missions, providing a unique perspective of the planet. The program uses some of the latest satellite imagery from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other probes orbiting the Red Planet while users can also add their own 3-D content to the Mars map to share with the world. We’re tipping that the Cydonia Mensae region featuring the humanoid “Face on Mars” will prove to be popular with the conspiracy theorists.

The Mars mode is accessed by clicking the small icon resembling Saturn on the Google Earth 5 toolbar section and selecting Mars.

Darren Quick