NASA's 360-degree Mars vista could pass for an Earth landscape

Mars may be an alien planet, but it looks awfully familiar in a new 360-degree view from NASA's Curiosity rover.

If you were to look at the Mars Curiosity rover's latest 360-degree panorama out of context, you might think you were staring at a view of the dry, rocky desert regions of the US Southwest. The big machine in the picture tips you off that this is actually the Red Planet and not Arizona. An interactive YouTube video from NASA lets you explore the craggy environment of the Murray Buttes on Mars in detail.

Just as we see everyday objects like fish and spoons in formations on Mars, we also see familiar worlds in the planet's landscapes. The exotic formations are due to the composition of the rock and soil layers.

"The buttes and mesas are capped with rock that is relatively resistant to wind erosion," NASA says. Lakebed mud deposits make up the flat, cracked ground stretching out from the rover. Similar terrain can be found right here on Earth.

Curiosity captured the intriguing view on August 5, and NASA released the interactive video Friday. You can also check out a static version of the panorama. To put the landscape in perspective, NASA notes the dark mesa to the left of the rover's arm is about 200 feet (60 meters) wide.

This isn't the first immersive view of Mars. Curiosity has been in residence on the Red Planet since 2012, sending back detailed images of its surroundings. Earlier this year, NASA released a 360-degree panorama showing dunes that are begging for otherworldly sand castles. In April, we got a good gander at a plateau inside a massive crater. Mars may be millions of miles away, but sometimes it looks a lot like home.