- Simple interface, educational
- Mosaic layout of mars confusing, not 3D like Google Earth
An excellent tool providing the general public with in depth information on Mars.
In the beginning Google created the Earth. Then they mapped the Moon. Now they have released "Google Mars," a browser based mapping tool of the red planet produced using photos obtained from NASA of Mars. We can't get directions to our local bank just yet, however we do now have a wealth of information about our distant cousin.
Before you begin your Martian exploration, we recommend you take some time to brief yourself and read "About Google Mars" ,located on the main page. Currently you can't use the Google Earth client to view Mars; it is just a birds-eye view of Mars, in a mosaic layout. However it's hinted in the FAQ section that this feature could be implemented at a later date. In the meantime a short movie of the biggest canyon on the Martian landscape 'Valles Marineris' (also known as Mariner Valley) has been provided to whet our appetites.
The search function provided is fairly standard, however there is a list of the main geographical features of Mars i.e. Crater, Valley, Spacecraft, Stories etc to the left of the search bar to save time. If you click on one of those links, then all the information with that keyword will appear in the popup information box.
There are three basic views you can choose from while navigating the map: elevation, visible and infrared. Elevation speaks for itself, where the height of the landscape is colour coded. Visible shows what you would see if you were in orbit around Mars. Infrared has the brightness of the planet showing the temperature; darker is colder, lighter is hotter and clouds and dust in this viewing mode are transparent.
The intuitive interface can lead you to a plethora of information from the geographical layout of mars to the positions of the NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which have been exploring opposite ends of the planet since 2004. Hyperlinks are used to take people to pages of further information on the topic they are interested in. You could for example, use the search function to find out information on the 'face of mars' which was imaged by the Viking spacecraft in the 1970s.
All information related to the search term will appear in a new box on the left hand side, and little tear drop icons showing the location of each piece of information turned up will appear on the Mars main map. If you click on a tear drop a speech bubble will appear with a link to more information on the item, which then transports you to a page with information dedicated to that particular topic.
Whether you're a school student doing an assignment on Mars, an Academic or just someone who is merely curious, Google Mars will have something to offer. Who knows what the ambitious Google will do next? Perhaps Google Venus, or Google Solar system! If Google keeps up with this cyber space exploration theme, NASA will certainly have their PR work done for them to re-invigorate people's interest in space exploration.
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