NASA Mars Odyssey releases most accurate Martian map ever

NASA's decade-old Mars Odyssey just released the most detailed map of Mars ever taken.

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, launched way back in April 2001, reached Mars in October of that year and began its operations in February of 2002. For the past eight and a half years, the satellite has been snapping photos, using its "multi-band infrared camera."

That camera, called THEMIS (THermal EMission Imaging System), managed to take over 21,000 photos of the surface of Mars since its work began. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility, have been working on this map for years, and are finally able to show it off to the world.

Those 21,000 photos have been, in NASA's words, "smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically controlled to make a giant mosaic." The final result is an almost Google-Maps-like experience that allows panning and zooming with the click or swipe of a mouse. You can zoom in pretty far--the smallest surface details that can be seen are about 100 meters wide, which is a new record for photography of Mars.

NASA has also worked with Microsoft to create the "Be a Martian" site, which is in large part an ode to these fantastic photos.

Of course, as Pop Sci notes, this record is being broken all the time. A newer satellite, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will eventually return images that show accurate detail down to 1 meter wide, about 100 times more accurate than the comparatively ancient (though spry) Mars Odyssey.

You can check out a sample map here, or if you've got some time, the whole archive is here.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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