The Martian Landscape, in Wacky 3D

By Megan Garber

The red planet becomes the red and blue planet.

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NASA

The surface of Mars has become, at this point, one of the most photographed celebrities in the world. Via its dedicated paparazzo, the Curiosity rover, the Red Planet has been depicted as, variously, black-and-white blobs; high-def images, in striking color; panoramas; interactive panoramas; pseudo-Instagrams; and cheeky GIFs. Thanks to Curiosity -- and, more specifically, to NASA's savvy indulgence of public interest in Curiosity's discoveries -- the foreign landscape of Mars is becoming more and more familiar to us.

Which means that NASA's publicity, increasingly, has a little less to do with encouraging familiarity and a little more to do with the disruption of it. Now that the world is flooded with pictures of Bradbury Landing and Mount Sharp and the rocky terrain of a dusty planet, how do you keep Mars's erstwhile exoticism alive in the public mind? How do you balance exposure against excitement?

Here's one way: NASA just published a 3D image of the Martian surface. Yep: old-school 3D, the kind of disordered and disorienting-to-the-naked-eye rendering that, as NASA points out, "requires viewing with the traditional red-blue 3-D glasses, with red going over the left eye."

What's that? You don't have 3D glasses sitting next to you at the moment? First of all: Why not? And second of all: Neither do I. Fortunately for us, though, NASA has a helpful guide to making your own version of the required glasses. This requires three steps -- four, if you need to make a trip to a craft store to buy your materials. It is, in other words, work. But it gives a jaded world yet another new way to see an old planet.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/09/the-martian-landscape-in-wacky-3d/261942/