One small step for Google Earth is one giant step for moon buffs. Google has updated its popular mapping software Google Earth 5.0 with a complete map of the moon that lets you explore craters, historic sites, and human artifacts. You can even view the moon in the style of Google Street View, checking out astronauts as they wander the moon's surface.
The moon is viewable in Google Earth 5.0, available here. Just click the install link on the page, then run the Google Earth software once installation is complete. Once the program is open, look for the icon with the ringed planet on the top toolbar, and select “Moon” from the drop-down list.
Readers with long memories may have seen this coming in 2005, when Google provided a map of six Apollo mission landing spots. That same year, NASA and Google agreed to collaborate on a variety of fronts. “Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at the time.
The chatter resumed earlier this month, when Google announced a media event at which Buzz Aldrin would speak. That event was scheduled for today, and Aldrin was indeed on hand to help announce that the moon is viewable in Google Earth.
The feature is more than just a few photos of a lifeless gray sphere. Aldrin and Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt give virtual guided tours, and there are rover concepts to view along with previously unreleased video footage, historic maps, human artifacts (try finding the American flag, perhaps?), and “street view”-style panoramic photos. The base map of the atlas itself is comprised of a lunar terrain data set by Kaguya LALT.
All of this stems from the 40th anniversary of man's first moonwalk, which occurred on July 20, 1969. Last week, the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum began retelling the mission in full.