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NASA, Microsoft produce first-ever 3-D maps of Mars

The new images of Mars are available in the WorldWide Telescope. A Microsoft/NASA photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): Getting close to the Red planet and peeping into all its mysteries is no longer a day dream for space enthusiasts.

US space agency NASA, in partnership with software giant Microsoft, has come out with 3-D maps of Mars covering its mountains, glaciers, craters, valleys and other fascinating surface features.

The new interactive software, which will allow people to visit Mars while sitting on Earth, has been produced by Microsoft engineers after three long years of extracting data from high resolution images produced by NASA’s Mars mission.

Viewers, by downloading the new software, can explore the planet while taking exclusive interactive tours and also talking directly with NASA scientists.

The new map has been created by “stitching together” the high resolution images acquired by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) – a state-of-the-art, remote-sensing camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The engineers acquired some 13,000 or so HiRISE images to produce a single coherent map.

While HiRISE has only imaged about 1 percent of Mars, leaving vast regions of Mars still to be explored, all of the HiRISE images have now been geolocated on a single map, and correlated with other global Mars data sets. Dotted with HiRISE images acquired so far, this new coherent map is the highest-resolution map of Mars’ surface ever constructed, NASA said.

“We wanted to make it easier for people everywhere, as well as scientists, to access these unique and valuable images. NASA had the images and they were open to new ways to share them,” said Dan Fay, director of Microsoft Research’s Earth, Energy and Environment effort.

“We were able to take the imagery from NASA, combine it with their elevation models and lay those onto the surface of the globe of Mars.

“Now users of the WorldWide Telescope can zoom down and actually experience the surface-level detail of Mars. They can pan back and see the height of the craters or the depth of the canyons. The new Mars experience allows people to feel as though they’re actually there,” Fay said.

So, if you want to experience an enchanting ride to Mars while sitting at home, then here is your way –


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