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Google Street View sets out to map Arlington Cemetery

Nearing the 150th anniversary of the iconic cemetery, Google Maps straps on its Trekker backpack to photograph the graveyard's sweeping views and hundreds of thousands of tombstones.

Sunrise over section 54 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Melissa Bohan/Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most famous US cemeteries -- it's where John F. Kennedy, William Howard Taft, and more than 400,000 veterans have been laid to rest. Now, Google is setting out to map this massive burial ground, according to The Washington Post.

Using the Street View Trekker backpack, which is equipped with a 15-lens camera system that pops out of the top of the wearable pack and constantly records images, Google employees are walking the paths of the cemetery collecting images.

For those who haven't visited, the cemetery offers stark scenery -- rows upon rows of white tombstones as far as the eye can see. Some grave markers date back as far as the Civil War when the location became a burial ground specifically for US soldiers.

Once Google is done mapping, which is planned for the cemetery's 150th anniversary in May, armchair travelers can visit the iconic graveyard with the click of a mouse. Not only will users be able to zoom in to see some of the details of the tombstones, but they'll also be able to zoom out for the expansive views. Each lens in the Street View Trekker backpack points in a different direction, so that, when combined, all of the images can be stitched into 360-degree panoramic views.

"This is a tool to explore the cemetery from your home," Google spokesperson Jennifer Lynch told the Post. "It's not the same as being here, of course, but for so many who can't afford or are physically incapable of visiting, this is a great tool to get a feel for Arlington and explore its rich history."

Google Maps has increasingly brought digital travelers to some of the most difficult places to reach on Earth. In March, the Web giant released a way to visit the mammoth peaks of Mount Everest, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and Mount Elbrus. And, over the past year, it has explored remote beaches in Hawaii, gone inside the world's largest passenger airliner, and even ventured into Japan's Fukushima nuclear no-go zone.