This data is used to create 3D models of the planet, allowing virtual flyover animations to be produced. "This is close to what you'd see hang gliding over the area," says Randolph Kirk of the United States Geological Survey in
, who leads the 3D mapping team. Flagstaff, Arizona
In one flyover , we circle around the 800-metre-wide Victoria crater, swooping down past a virtual Opportunity rover and into the crater itself, then skim over the dunes on its floor and climb up the opposite crater wall.
In the other flyover, we soar across the cratered plains that the Spirit rover spent months trekking across, eventually floating by the rugged
hills, where the rover is currently wandering. Columbia
Craters that are not obvious in ordinary, flat images of these plains stand out clearly in the 3D imagery. "There's an incredible amount of detail in here at the scale of metres that we've never been able to see topographically," Kirk says.