Google Earth Now Takes You to the Moon

Google Earth users can now keep a watchful eye on the moon as part of the program's latest update.

Google Earth Lands on the Moon

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.

Moon Navigation

To get started on exploring the moon, launch Google Earth 5.0, find the icon on the top toolbar that looks like a ringed planet, then select "Moon" from the drop-down list. Once viewing the moon in Google Earth, you'll notice, in the lower left-hand corner under "Layers," many bookmarks to points of interest on the moon.

Mapping the Moon

The moon may seem plain from afar, but there's no shortage of spots of interest to find through Google Earth.

Zoom in on Points of Interest

Clicking the red dots on the moon brings up facts, history, and information about future NASA plans.

Apollo 11

Look hard enough within the “Apollo Missions” section of the “Moon Gallery,” and you'll find photos like this.

Google Street Views--On the Mooon

Photos in the style of Google Maps' Street View make for great wallpapers.

Apollo Lander

Another photo from an Apollo mission. The lander is part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, which commenced after the first mission to the moon.

Historical Moon

Historic maps can be laid on top of the satellite imagery, kind of like the common street maps section of Google Maps.

Geology of the Moon

As with many of the points of interest on the Moon, through NASA's historic maps, you can zoom in and study, in great detail, even the geology of the moon.

Rover Concept Moon Buggies

Rover concepts are viewable as part of Google's Lunar X-PRIZE competition.

A Crater Close Up

Historic maps can all be viewed in greater detail, just in case you need to look up the name of a small, obscure crater.

'Topo' Map of the Moon

Ever wonder about the topography of the moon--the heights and depths of its mountains, valleys and craters? If so, Google Earth's Moon layer will allow you to plot the ups and downs of the moon.

Is Google Solar System Next?

The moon from afar. Is Google Solar System next?

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors