Say you take a vacation to Mars. Say you spend the first day or two relaxing—hanging out on the beach, drinking daiquiris, reading terrible novels, that kind of thing—but say, after you're good and rested, you want a little more adventure. Say you read, in your Really Lonely Planet, about a company that offers helicopter tours of the area. Say you sign up for a trip.
Well ... the video above is pretty much what you'd see. It's a rendering of the Martian surface based on data compiled by the ESA—and via, in particular, that agency's Mars Express, which has orbited the planet nearly 12,500 times since it arrived there in late 2003. The vehicle's High Resolution Stereo Camera captured data that, collectively, allowed imagers to create a digitized topographic model of the Martian surface. And the video that resulted is an astounding reminder of how Blue Marble-like the Red Planet can seem on its surface. There are volcanoes. There are canyons. There are dried river beds and solidified lava flows. There are many of the structures familiar to us from our own planet: Earth, minus the Earth. And, in its own way, spectacular.