Red Planet Goes Blue: Imagining A Habitable Mars
January 7, 2013

Red Planet Goes Blue: Imagining An Earth-Like Mars

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Mars has been a planet of interest for as long as humans have been going into space. And space scientists for nearly as long have dreamed of one day being able to walk on the surface of the Martian world. And still, others have dreamed of being able to colonize the planet. However, in its current state, it would be a very inhospitable environment for humans.

But what if the Red Planet was a hospitable world? What if there were lush forests, grassy fields, vast rolling oceans, and a breathable atmosphere like here on Earth? One scientist has taken upon himself to recreate Mars to look just like that.

Using data from NASA´s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NH software engineer Kevin Gill was inspired to turn the Red Planet into a Blue Planet.

“I had been doing similar models of Earth and have seen attempts by others of showing life on Mars, so I figured I'd give it a go,” Gill told Discovery News. “It was a good way to learn about the planet, be creative and improve the software I was rendering it in.”

His virtual recreation shows Mars with a lush, green landscape, deep blue oceans, and white clouds. Gill created the landscape using an open-source geospatial program of his own design to create “A Living Mars.” Gill told the Atlantic that he based some of his work on NASA´s Blue Marble: Next Generation imagery.

Gill said much of his work pertaining to what potential past life may have been like on the planet was more artistic concept with a certain level of educated guesses.

“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),” Gill said in his Google Plus Blog.

“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," he continued.

While Gill´s creation shows an imaginative alien world that bears an uncanny resemblance to Earth, experts said that there is little evidence that Mars used to support any alien flora or fauna, and it is highly unlikely that the planet ever resembled that of Earth. One of the key reasons is that Mars has no global magnetic field to deflect solar radiation and to maintain a critical biosphere.

Gill does acknowledge that he made several assumptions as to what Mars would like with an Earth-like biosphere, and does not argue that the recreation in no way shows what the planet looked like in its past.

“This wasn´t intended as an exhaustive scientific scenario as I´m sure (and expect) some of my assumptions will prove incorrect,” Gill continued. “I´m hoping at least to trigger the imagination, so please enjoy!”