NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to deliver an amazingly detailed view of Mars to Microsoft Research's free Worldwide Telescope application, with images so detailed you can almost see the Google Maps camera cars roaming about the surface.
The Worldwide Telescope is a nifty little Microsoft program, available for free download or as a Silverlight browser app, which combines data from the world's most powerful far-seeing machines into one comprehensive virtual telescope. You can look at the stars in the night sky over your house, or explore deeper into the solar system, where you can check out the surface of Venus, or Jupiter and its moons.
But not quite as comprehensively as you can view Mars.
The new Mars experience included in the Worldwide Telescope utilizes more than 13,000 images from a variety of NASA spacecraft in order to produce "the most detailed, highest quality images ever taken of the Martian surface."
Downloading and installing the application will put a "WWT | Mars" icon on your Windows desktop, along with the normal Worldwide Telescope icon. Clicking on it gives you instant access to a wide variety of recent and historical pictures of the red planet, from Nathaniel Greene's pencil map from 1877, to images taken with today's ultra high-tech equipment.
Some of the most impressive visuals, as Mashable points out, come from the University of Arizona's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. Stitching together the thousands of one-gigapixel images taken by a remote imaging camera mounted on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provides us with the most detailed map of Mars ever created.
The program is pretty amazing, especially considering the price (free). You can explore on your own, or select a guided tour to download documentary-style explorations, some fully-voiced, covering of The Ages of Mars, the history of Mars landings, and more.