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Google Goes To Mars

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-03-13

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While Google has not reported completion of their fabled 'space elevator', they have made it easier to explore the Red Planet through a specially crafted version of Google Maps.

When it comes to Google and space, people who follow the search advertising company tend to think of Google's deal with NASA that will see a shiny new Googleplex constructed at Moffett Field. The company has expanded beyond mere Earthly boundaries with its latest Labs project.

Garett Rogers at ZDNet unearthed the Google Mars during his virtual explorations of Google's DNS records. Google later updated its homepage logo with a link to the project, to commemorate the March 13th birthday of Percival Lowell, who mapped Mars in painstaking fashion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The URL points to a Google Maps interpretation of Martian data collected by Arizona State University. ASU recently learned its Tempe campus will be the new home of a Google office.

Google Mars renders its Martian visuals by incorporating three types of data as collected by ASU's Mars Odyssey Mission team:

•  Elevation - A shaded relief map, generated with data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. This map is color-coded by altitude, so you can use the color key at the lower left to estimate elevations.
•  Visible - A mosaic of images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. MOC is like the digital camera you have at home. Basically, this is what your eyes would see if you were in orbit around Mars.
•  Infrared - A mosaic of infrared images taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Warmer areas appear brighter, and colder areas are darker. Clouds and dust in the atmosphere are transparent in the infrared, making this the sharpest global map of Mars that's ever been made.

On the Google Mars page, nine available options allow visitors to select certain defined regions of Mars, like craters and mountains. Most visitors will likely be drawn to the Spacecraft option, where the locations and data about 11 craft that have reached the planet can be found by clicking on each of their entries.

Many of the geographical features that show up in Google Mars have links back to the ASU website, where related articles on those features have been created by NASA researchers and posted online.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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