Oh My Fucking God! Google Mars!
Okay, why am I so excited? Because my novel takes place on Mars, of course!
re: novel ... It's still in-progress. I've completed the first draft, and am currently agog at all the research I still have to do and wondering how I can get out of it. Plus, I just took a two+ month break and am now reading the damn thing through from start to finish. Fun, but also boring, since there are parts that I've read through several times already.
I wish Google Mars had been around three and a half years ago, when I was really writing my Mars descriptions. It woulda saved me some stress, and my parents some money (they gave me a Mars globe for Christmas a few years ago.) See, it's really hard to visualize Mars for yourself, from scratch, so to speak, because the images we have of Mars, although of high quality, are either satellite images, like these, or they're ground-level images from the rovers, like this. That is to say, they're either bird's eye views (actually, cartographer's eye views), or dog's eye views.
There are no man's eye views, that is to say, there aren't the kinds of views that people would get if they were on Mars; because people wouldn't be content to roll around inside a crater, or orbit the planet ad dusty nauseum. People would land as soon as poss, and get themselves up to a high place -- a mountain, a crater rim, a mesa, and do the broad-view-before-me thing. People would bring along a twin engine and buzz the canyons and circle the peaks. People wouldn't walk across flat deserts; and if they did, they'd look up every so often. People would go play on the dunes, and hike across the polar ice, probably finding some way to slide across it.
Three years ago I had to buy and download what maps and photos were available at Discovery stores and on the NASA Mars website, which, don't get me wrong, has always been cool, if only because it's basically the only game in town. Then the rovers landed and the NASA site got very, very cool, and all these geeks were hired, and even the ones who weren't hired started getting excited and doing animations and all kinds of cool stuff. But NASA, as experienced as it was at PR, was piling up so much data so quickly that they had to have some problems getting it across in a streamlined way.
I mean, go check out the site. Can you easily find, for example, a recent panorama view from a crater? Can you find an interactive map of the area each rover has covered? Can you, without blockages or frustration, get a smooth view of Mars? I can't. It took me two hours one day to find the animation I wanted. Of course, I could be just stoopid. (Don't hate me, NASA! I love your Mars site! I'm just sayin'!)
So here's Google Mars, with its simple, simple interactive map, and its easy, easy way of accessing information about features on the map. One click, two clicks, and you can find out more than you wanted to know about any feature, plus see photos, plus see animations if there are any.
I mean, check this out. Talk about buzzing canyons in a twin engine!
Ima go play now.