The Red Planet undoubtedly exerts a deep fascination and, while humanity is still a ways to go until our first trip to Mars, the wealth of observational data and images sent back by NASA’s rovers and orbiters, as well as other missions by countries around the world, has allowed us to sneak a peek under the atmosphere of this captivating alien planet.
But looking at photos doesn’t really give you a sense of what it would be like to actually fly over Mars and take in its perplexing scenery from up above.
Luckily, someone has had the idea to create a visual tour of the Red Planet, which helps you experience Mars in a way that hasn’t been possible before, Scroll.in reports.
By using actual footage from the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), visual artist Seán Doran has compiled a pair of videos depicting a flyby of the Gorgonum Chaos — a “fractured, almost spooky-looking surface” believed to have been carved by water and which is among the most remarkable features of the Martian landscape, says NASA.
Over the 12 years since MRO has been orbiting the Red Planet, HiRISE (short for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has provided plenty of high-resolution images of Mars.
Doran has chosen to focus on the Gorgonum Chaos — a rugged terrain traversed by interesting crevices and located on the planet’s southern hemisphere, shows NASA — and has extensively processed the HiRISE photos taken of this unusual area in order to create a very realistic effect.
— Seán Doran | Seán Ó Deoráin (@_TheSeaning) June 14, 2018
The two videos are very artfully put together and really manage to capture what it would be like to fly over the Red Planet, coming as close as possible to what you’d expect from an actual drone footage of Mars.
“The quality and fidelity of the data products HiRISE provides enables a virtual photograph to be taken of the Martian surface,” Doran told Gizmodo via Twitter. “It’s not as good as being there, but it’s the next best thing!”
The media outlet points out that images of space normally go through at least some deal of processing and sometimes require a bit of artistic interpretation, leading to what is known as space art — which is exactly what Doran’s videos are.
According to Outer Places, the simulated flight over the Martian landscape was made by running the HiRISE elevation data through the 3D graphics software Blender to create 3D models of the Gorgonum Chaos.
As Doran said in a statement, the job was made exponentially more interesting given the unique geological features found on the Red Planet.
“Mars does make it easy though. The planet is filled with alien and exotic landscapes.”
The name of this particular region is derived from both the Gorgons of Greek mythology — terrifying creatures with “writhing, snakelike locks” and a fierce gaze that could turn anyone into stone — and the area’s peculiar terrain.
— HiRISE Bot (@HiRISEBot) June 16, 2018
“‘Chaos’ is a term used for regions of Mars with distinctive areas of broken terrain,” NASA explained a while back when the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft beamed back some interesting footage of Gorgonum Chaos.
“As it turns out this is indeed a fitting name for this region of Mars because it contains a high density of gullies that ‘snake’ their way down the walls of the troughs located in this region of chaos,” noted the space agency at the time.