What if the Red Planet weren't always in that constant state of blushing? Kevin Gill, a software engineer who also re-engineers planets every now and then, imagines Mars might long ago have looked quite a bit more like the aqua-green marble we call home.
To create the above image, Gill used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), picked an arbitrary sea level, and used a script to cover all the surfaces of Mars below that line with a nice shade of royal blue. From there, Gill writes on Google+ that it was a combination of some earthly textures borrowed from NASA and Gill's own imagination -- adhering of course to the kind of strict logic you'd expect from a career engineer... and an artist.
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). 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.
Paint by number, you have met your match.
Of course, Gill points out that "this wasn't intended as an exhaustive scientific scenario" but hopes some of his assumptions will prove to be true. Here's hoping the Curiosity rover has a secret time machine built in that NASA hasn't told us about yet, so we can see just how close Gill is to the real deal.
Here are a few alternate views Gill cooked up:
Here's a closer view of the Martian land mass with added oceanic action:
(Via The Register)