If Mars were more like Minnesota, we would have to send boats along with rovers.
Vast quantities of liquid water are a memory from Mars' distant past, but visual artist and citizen scientist Seán Doran has imagined what the Red Planet would look like if it were covered in lakes. His computer visualizations are simply gorgeous.
Doran started with images and 3D height data collected by orbiting spacecraft, including NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He used Photoshop and After Effects to manipulate the images, adding water to the dry landscapes.
Doran created a series of short videos that look like compelling vacation advertisements. Sunrise on Sharp Island imagines, a central focus of NASA's Curiosity rover mission, as an island in a water-filled Gale Crater. A sunrise glints off the calm waters.
Another video pans across a placid landscape in the daylight.
Then we see a sunset over Lake Gale.
In 2014, NASA released a simulated view of water in Gale Crater, an effort that inspired Doran.
"It is a spectacular location and I wanted to see if I could improve on some of the earlier attempts released by NASA with the better datasets available now," Doran told CNET. "Making images like this also helps us to connect with the environment we are looking at."
Doran's images are rooted in science. Gale Crater was home to a lake "more than three billion years ago, filling and drying in multiple cycles over tens of millions of years," NASA said.
Future astronauts visiting Mars won't have to worry about packing their kayaks, but Doran's images are a wondrous thought experiment that makes the dusty and distant planet feel a little closer to home.