See Mars Better Than An Astronaut With Microsoft's Interactive MapsS

In order to create the most interactive 3D-map of Mars ever, NASA had to process 13,000 gigapixel HiRISE images for three years. Now that they've finished, the map will let people see Mars better than most NASA scientists ever have.

NASA teamed up with Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope to deliver the highest resolution images of Mars ever. In fact, the pictures are so detailed that you can see the tracks left by various Mars Rovers. The PC-Only software (there's a web client for Mac folks) lets normal people like you and me tour the Victoria Crater, the Olympus Mons and the rest of its dusty, beautifully red surface in 3D. The 3D effect was created by:

The 3-D effect is derived from information provided by an instrument called MOLA, the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which measured altitude along the surface of Mars from space from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. The team also combined that information with a stereo image-reconstruction process - taking two images from different angles and using that to build a 3-D model of the terrain.

NASA's bigger hope with this map is that it'll lead to new scientific discoveries because of its unprecedented detail. But to me, it's a more insane, martian version of Google Earth. And that's a very good thing. Take the Mars tour here. [NASA via PopSci]