Google Mars 3-D Preview

[2-6-09 update: now with video!]

In case you are curious but a tad download-shy, I spent a little time exploring Mars today via Google Earth and took a selection of screen shots.

I think I’m in love with the colorized topography layer, which makes abundantly clear the huge demarcation between the southern basin and the northern highlands. Plus it makes Olympus Mons looks like a throbbing pustule.
—Image courtesy Google

[Friday update: I see the G-blog folks also have a great video tour to get you started on your own red planet adventure—enjoy!]

I was also inspired to drill down and try to see the candidate landing sites for the upcoming Mars Science Lab from the future rover’s potential point of view.

Although it’s not due to launch until 2011, the rover’s mission managers have in the meanwhile narrowed the list of possible sites to four (all images courtesy Google):
Eberswalde Crater
Gale Crater
Holden Crater
Mawrth Vallis

I also couldn’t resist taking a peek at Nili Fossae, which was discarded as a landing site in the previous round of discussion but keeps getting more interesting scientifically

Human Journey