Cutting Edge > Discoveries from Mars > Mars Visualizations > Mars Exploration and Geology

Mars Exploration and Geology

Compiled by Barbara Tewksbury at Hamilton College

This collection includes visualizations of mars exploration and geology. Access animations and interactive images from Martian rovers and landers, including Spirit, Opportunity, Pathfinder, and Sojourner. There are also animations and visualizations detailing Mars' surface geology, as well as animations and information about the historical and current presence of water on Mars.
Mars Exploration | Martian Geology

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Mars Exploration

MER Mission Animation, NASA (more info) This QuickTime movie is an outstanding animation of the Mars Exploration Rover mission from launch through landing and roving. The animation is scientifically accurate and wonderfully detailed. Created by Maas Digital for NASA's JPL.

Spirit & Opportunity: One Year On Mars, NASA (more info) A short documentary in QuickTime format features information about the challenges faced and discoveries made by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Featuring interviews with NASA engineers and scientists, as well as animations and images from the rovers, this film describes the difficulties and rewards of Mars exploration. The film is also available from NASA in MPEG and MPEG-4 formats.

Mars Rover Virtual Reality Panoramic Images (more info) A series of full-screen QuickTime VR images of the Martian landscape, as captured by the Spirit and Pathfinder missions to Mars. You can interact with the panoramas to see the surface of Mars as captured by NASA's probes.

Martian Geology

Great Zoom into Martian Distributary Fan, NASA (more info) Zoom-in on a fabulous distributary channel system in a crater northeast of Holden Crater on Mars. The images show compelling evidence for water flow on the Martian surface creating a distributary fan, meanders, and cut-offs. The page features an MPEG-1 movie showing the surface, along with numerous static images illustrating the same features. The movie may be viewed with either QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Tharsis Basin Aquifer System, University of Arizona and NASA ( This site may be offline. ) This is a QuickTime movie animating an enormous ancient drainage basin and aquifer system in the Tharsis region of Mars. The movie shows the geological stages of the aquifer system, as reported in a University of Arizona study.

Earth-Mars Planet Comparisons, NASA (more info) This is a visualization showing the relative size of Mars compared to that of Earth. This version uses false color textures, corresponding to the heights above/below 'sea level.' This version also includes pole axes and an orbit plane. The page features the visualization as an MPEG-1 movie, which may be viewed with either QuickTime or Windows Media Player. The page also includes static images from the visualization.

Flyover of Gusev Crater, NASA (more info) A MPEG-1 movie of a false color flyover of Gusev Crater and Ma'adim Vallis, this visualization shows Mars' surface elevation using color enhancement and 3D imaging. The flyover includes detail of the crater, the Spirit landing site, and a channel cutting across the Martian surface. The animation may be viewed with either QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Tharsis Volcanoes Flyover, NASA (more info) This visualization features a flyover of Mars' Tharsis volcanoes, with false color added to highlight the animation's exaggerated surface elevation. The animation is in MPEG-1 format and may be viewed with either QuickTime or WIndows Media Player.

Seasonal Snow Variations on Mars, NASA (more info) This false color visualization of Mars illustrates how the size and shape of the Martian ice caps vary over the course of the Martian year. Although the surface of Mars is rendered in 3D, the visualization uses graphic elements to enable the user to clearly see the relative depth and magnitude of the ice cap. The animation is available in MPEG-1 format, and may be viewed with QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Mars Ocean Model, NASA (more info) A computer-generated model of how Mars would appear with oceans if sea level was -500m (on this scale, the lowest elevation on Mars is -8000m, while the highest is 22000m). Featuring a true-color topographical image of Mars, this MPEG-1 movie may be viewed in QuickTime or Windows Media Player. The page also features static images of a flooded Martian surface.

Valles Marineris Flyover, NASA (more info) This true color flyover is an MPEG-1 movie showing Mars' Valles Marineris in great detail. The flyover is also available in a shorter version that begins with a great zoom, also in MPEG-1 format. The movies may be viewed with QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Simulations of the Martian Atmosphere Interacting with the Solar Wind, NASA (more info) This fabulous visualization that shows how Mars might have lost water from its atmosphere early in the planet's history. By illustrating how the solar wind interacts with Mars' ionosphere, this model simulates the loss of a 10 meter global equivalent ocean layer over the course of 3.5 billion years. The visualization is a movie in MPEG-1 format, viewable with QuickTime or Windows Media Player. The page also features static images from the visualization.

Mars Atlas, NASA (more info) This interactive GIF image shows the Martian surface and enables users to select a surface feature to learn more about the area and see a close-up image. Several significant geological features are included, including craters, volcanoes, and Mars' famous "face."