The Liquid Galaxy at the Space Museum in Washington

Thirty-five years ago this week, the Viking 1 lander touched down on the surface of Mars, beginning an olympian mission of exploration lasting more than 6 years. Today, the Liquid Galaxy immersive Google Earth display lands at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, in the “Moving Beyond Earth” exhibit.


Photo by Mark Avino, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It’s part of the museum’s annual Mars Day! event, where visitors can learn about the red planet, past and future missions to Mars, and talk to scientists active in Mars research. Adding to the excitement, NASA has just announced the location of the landing site for the next mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory. In November, this SUV-sized robot will make the leap into space and is expected to land in Gale Crater, to look for signs that Mars might have once harbored life.

Designed during engineers’ 20% time, Liquid Galaxy consists of several screens in a circular arrangement, all running Google Earth in parallel for an immersive virtual experience. Visitors can use the podium with touchscreen and a 3D mouse to navigate to an up-close and personal near-360-degree view of the landing site in Google Earth, as well as anywhere else on Mars, the Moon, and of course Earth.

Admission to the museum is free, so be sure to stop by the next time your travels take you to the capital of the United States. While you’re there, enjoy the largest collection of historic spacecraft and aircraft in the world, including a proof test article of the Viking Mars Lander. (Of course, the Viking 1 lander itself took a one-way trip!)

If you can’t make the trip to Washington or Mars yourself, you can always explore the Martian surface from the comfort of your own home using Google Earth, checking out the progress of the current crop of robot explorers, seeing the latest imagery from orbiting satellites or scouting out the Mars Science Laboratory’s future landing site for yourself.

Marine Day With Shinkai

The ocean covers approximately 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and yet remains one of the most mysterious places on the planet. In Japan, bodies of water with depths over 200m (656 feet) are referred to as shinkai, or deep sea. These dark regions of the ocean do not receive light and water pressure is up to 100x higher than at the surface, making the shinkai inaccessible to most exploration.

In honor of Marine Day in Japan, we collaborated with JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) and the manned Shinkai 6500 submarine to share this hidden world through Google Earth. Dive beneath the surface to explore the shinkai, as well as shipwrecks, research discoveries, surf spots and more.

The Shinkai 6500 is able to dive to depths of 6,500m (21,325 feet), a feat few other vessels can match. It is equipped with a variety of research devices such as search lights, cameras and robotic arms. A cockpit enables three pilots to withstand the extreme conditions and even includes a spyglass for visual exploration of the deepest parts of the ocean.


Shinkai 6500’s mission is to bring the secrets of the deep sea to the surface for marine enthusiasts. It studies movement of the Earth’s interior, living organisms equipped to survive the most extreme conditions and the impact of hydrothermal activity on the environment.

In order to bring this research to life, we worked with JAMSTEC to create a Google Earth tour showcasing past Shinkai 6500 endeavors to the ocean floor. Join the crew by downloading the KML file (in English or Japanese) and opening in Google Earth.

The Shinkai 6500 tour highlights previous deep sea missions and marine life.

As the submarine descends, you will learn more about the vessel and the creatures it finds in the deepest parts of the ocean, including historical imagery from past ventures. Discover unique deep sea features and lifeforms – from rare translucent fish such as the Liparis to hydrothermal vents known as white smokers.

Learn more about life at the bottom of the sea as the Shinkai 6500 explores the Google Earth ocean.

We hope the Shinkai 6500 inspires you to continue to explore the deep sea and its hidden treasures. We recommend starting with the ocean seafloor tour or deep sea vents ridge 2000. You can find even more ocean tours in the Ocean Showcase on the Google Earth website.


Space Archeologists discovering ancient tombs in Egypt


While we’ve often referred to them as “Armchair Archeologists“, Dr. Sarah Parcak is doing similar work by finding thousands of important ancient settlements through the use of infrared satellite imagery.



According to Gizmodo, the satellite that captures the infrared imagery is accurate to one meter, and makes pyramids, tombs and settlements easier to spot even if they are completely buried. Because ancient Egyptians used mud brick, it is much denser than the soil around it and can be picked up with infrared satellite imagery.

She recently traveled to Egypt to during which they excavated a 3,000-year-old house, and the outline of the structure matched her imagery almost exactly! This was great validation of the work she’s been doing.

You can read more about what she has done and her future plans on the BBC website.

Stefan at Ogle Earth has dug into this story as well, and has created a nice file to use for comparison purposes. Grab his KMZ file to see a comparison between some of Dr. Parcek’s imagery and the base Google Earth imagery for the same area.