Man maps out Earth-like Mars: a vision of the past or the future?

Living Mars: Man maps out Earth-like Mars. Kevin Gill image (Kevin Gill)

With all the collected evidence showing how Mars was a much wetter environment in the past, New Hampshire software engineer Kevin Gill created 'A Living Mars' — a view of what the planet might look like if it was more like Earth.

Gill mapped out the terrain of Mars using high-resolution data gathered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's laser altimeter (MOLA) and a terrain mapping program of his own design (called jDem846) and then used NASA's Blue Marble Next Generation imagery and a bit of artistic license to 'paint' in oceans, vegetation, atmosphere and clouds, turning the Red Planet into another Blue Marble.

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Gill explains this on his Google+ page:

"There is no scientific reasoning behind how I painted it; I tried to envision how the land would appear given certain features or the effects of likely atmospheric climate. For example, I didn’t see much green taking hold within the area of Olympus Mons and the surrounding volcanoes, both due to the volcanic activity and the proximity to the equator (thus a more tropical climate). For these desert-like areas I mostly used textures taken from the Sahara in Africa and some of Australia. Likewise, as the terrain gets higher or lower in latitude I added darker flora along with tundra and glacial ice. These northern and southern areas textures are largely taken from around northern Russia. Tropical and subtropical greens were based on the rainforests of South America and Africa."

Regardless of whether they're scientifically accurate, the images that Gill produced are incredible, and I think they are probably as good a view as any of what Mars may have looked like when liquid water flowed on its surface.

Also, it is my own firm belief that humanity will one day colonize, and eventually terraform, Mars. So this may be showing us a view from the future as well — a future when our own Blue Marble won't be quite so alone in this region of space.

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