Google Maps goes to Mars

Google Maps has made a giant leap beyond even the moon to give Googlers their first close up of Mars.

You don’t get the complete picture, but the locations of pretty much every landing, successful or otherwise, are depicted along with many of the most important geographical features such as Valles Marineris.

The images were snapped some 250 miles out by a series of orbiting instruments: the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) creates a map colour-coded by altitude while the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) offers a visual depiction of the red planet. Both are aboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Additionally the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA’s Mars Odyssey shows a thermal image of the surface, cutting through the gas and dust clouds to give one of the sharpest images available.

Alongside the actual images, Google’s set of tools maps out geographical features such as craters, ridges, mountains and so on. It also locates landings, including our ill-fated Beagle mission (and no matter how close up, there’s no sign of the broken Brit), and points of interest such as meteor impacts, lava flows and evidence of water.

Google says it is working on making the images available through Google Earth, which would also allow the viewer to change the tilt perspective, highlighting the topography of Mars.

In the meantime, a movie detailing a trip through the Valles Marineris, based on the information used on Google Mars, is available through the THEMIS website.

For your own mission to Mars, visit

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