Amazing Mars Flyover Videos Keep Getting Better and Better

Article written: 22 Mar , 2010
Updated: 22 Jan , 2016
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Video

How do the folks from UnmannedSpaceflight do it?!! They keep surpassing themselves with every new flyover video! We’ve posted some Mars flyover videos before, created by UMSF founder Doug Ellison. Now, colleague Adrian Lark — who has been working on creating animations and enhanced images with data from the Mars missions for several years — has produced new features on the videos. This latest, which flies you around the scarp surrounding Olympus Mons has speed and height information as well as a context map included on the video. “The data I am using is generated from the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter,” Adrian told me. “The elevation data has a spatial resolution of 1 meter and the image data has a spatial resolution of 25 centimeters. There is no vertical exaggeration in any of the videos.”

Also, Adrian has experimented with You Tube’s stereoscopic 3-D player, providing a 3-D experience of flying through Candor Chasma. IMAX, watchout! You’ve got competition!

So hang on while you watch these incredible videos! See more below, and also Adrian shared with me a little about his software and how he creates these flyover videos.

The videos are created using actual, high-resolution data from the HiRISE camera — DEM (Digital Elevation Model)– also known as DTM Digital Terrain Model files.

Click here to watch the new 3-D experimental video.

Adrian’s regular, non-3-D version of his Candor Chasma video recently went viral across the web, hitting websites like Huffington Post and more (watch it here).

“The videos were produced using software I originally designed to visualize the MOLA data in 2001,” Adrian said. “The software, called Mars Explorer, is a real-time rendering engine for visualizing 3D terrain data interactively.”

Adrian said the Mars Explorer software renders at about 60 frames per second on a PC with a moderately powerful graphics card when not outputting video. “When creating videos it runs at about one tenth of that speed. The 4 minute 50 second Candor Chasma video took about half an hour to generate,” he said. “The software requires the elevation and image data in raw binary format so I first have to pre-process the HiRISE DTM and image data into this format. This process takes about an hour.

One of my favorites is one Adrian created of flying through Gale Crater, above, which includes the sun in the sky and even “glare” of the sun off the “lens” of your camera (or the windshield on your Mars hovercraft! – the sun and glare can also be seen in the Olympus Mons video, top). But he says the earlier videos he created, such as the Gale crater animation, did not utilize the full image resolution that he now has by making his software more memory efficient. “I can now use the data at its full resolution,” he said. “I have to crop some of the larger datasets such as the Mojave crater DTM because they require more system RAM than I currently have.”

About the sun and glare, Adrian said, “The shadows in the Gale crater animation do not correspond correctly to the position of the sun. The sun should be to the left and possibly higher. The sun glare is an effect I programmed that brightens the whole screen by an amount depending on the angle between the sun and view direction.”

In the Candor Chasma and Gale crater videos the camera is traveling roughly at 160km/h at an altitude of 100 meters.

Simply amazing! Thanks to Adrian for sharing and explaining how he creates these videos. He also said he will be making the Mars Explorer software freely available for download from his website soon.

See Adrian Lark’s You Tube channel for more incredible videos.

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5 Responses

  1. cshArpe says

    flying “map of the earth”… on MARS! so cool!

  2. Member
    Aqua says

    Absolutely stunning work! I really appreciated the flyover of the suspected seeping/landslide areas…. Evidence of possible liquid perchlorate solutions or other low temperature soluble chemistry below the Martian Soil?

    THEN there was the flyby of the ‘melted icing’ on the cliff tops. Very cool!

  3. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    It was this Gale crater animation that sold me on it being a worthy target for Curiosity, which I didn’t think before. (It looked more like a landing oval “safe” target.)

    Now the stunning views and the access to layering and clays that it demonstrates wouldn’t be the only deciding factor here. But I expect that these type of “ad” material will go a long way towards provoking interest in Mars targets in the future.

  4. Aodhhan says

    Now if we could only send a solar powered, unmanned aircraft into the atmosphere which could be used to take even better photographs.

    However, I’m sure geologists are just drooling over these spectacular shots. Hard to pick which photographs are better. These or from Cassini.

  5. What I’d really like to know is what the wet looking strip is on the last couple of seconds of the film.

    It is presumably part of the MRO imagery, but the 3D context is highly suggestive of just-under-the-surface flow.

    How wide is it? I wish the movie had a scale bar on it.

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