An Animator Makes a Virtual Tour of Mars Based on Real NASA Data

Monday, 18 June 2018 - 7:08PM
Space
Mars
Monday, 18 June 2018 - 7:08PM
An Animator Makes a Virtual Tour of Mars Based on Real NASA Data
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YouTube/Seán Doran
Until we have an actual drone flying around Mars, our best shots of Martian landscapes come from still photos taken by rovers or overhead shots from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) for as long as it remains active.

However, with enough data from the MRO, specifically its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, we can make some impressive simulations of how a live flyover of the Red Planet might look. Doing exactly this, visual artist Seán Doran has compiled a large amount of HiRISE data on a specific set of Martian canyons with the awesome name of "Gorgonum Chaos", and made a series of virtual simulations of the landscape.

You can see those simulations below:





The canyons in the Gorgonum Chaos were likely formed by water a very long time ago, which has made them a point of interest for NASA and a frequent target of the MRO, which takes high-quality still photos from 200 miles (322 kilometers) above the surface. The MRO also records a lot of information about elevation in the landscape, which is what Doran used.

By running that MRO elevation data through the 3D graphics software Blender, Doran made some three-dimensional models of the Martian landscape. And with some additional processing in Photoshop and some more artistic flourishes, he could make a simulation of what a Martian drone would be seeing.

Now, it's entirely possible that a drone will indeed be exploring Mars very soon - NASA is open to the idea of sending a specially designed unmanned aerial vehicle (you know, a drone) with the Mars 2020 rover which launches in two years. 

But until that happens, this will more than suffice.

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