Mars, viewed from Google Earth. Now it's as easy to explore our neighboring planets as it is to see satellite images of your hometown.     Photo: Google

Explore the Cosmos with Google

Google Earth expands to the Moon and Mars

Google couldn't celebrate Curiosity's second anniversary on Mars (in Earth years) with just a doodle. Instead, the California-based gods of the Internet have released two new maps to explore using the Google Earth application—on Mars and the Moon. They were assembled using images taken by various spacecraft as well as data on each body's elevation and climate.

In typical Google fashion, the maps have been finely tuned to every last educational detail. On the Moon, select the "Apollo" view to see pins of NASA landing sites, narrated by Apollo astronauts. There are also 3D models of spacecraft that have landed on the moon and rare footage from the Apollo missions. Mars features up-to-date images of Mars downloaded directly from NASA, plus an exhaustive list of famous Martian landmarks and a tour of Mars narrated by Public Radio's Ira Flatow or Bill Nye the Science Guy. It's an astronomy nerd's dream come true and, for the rest of us, just a really cool innovation to poke around.

If Google Earth is installed on your computer, get the full 3D map experience by clicking the planet button and selecting the celestial body of your choice. We'll understand if you get a little addicted to armchair interstellar exploration.