July 27, 2009 — -- Not content to have become one of the most powerful information sources on this planet, engineers at Google have now conquered the Moon.
They inserted a detailed map of the lunar surface, as imaged by U.S. satellites. It becomes especially rich in material at the six sites where U.S. astronauts landed between 1969 and 1972, and where various robotic probes touched down in advance of Apollo.
To use it, one has to download the newest version of Google Earth, found HERE. It is separate from (and more detailed than) the lunar maps already found on the Google Web site; those have been there for about four years.
"I believe that this educational tool is a critical step into the future, a way to both develop the dreams of young people globally, and inspire new audacious goals," wrote Anousheh Ansari, the sponsor of the Ansari X Prize, and the first woman to travel in orbit as a space "tourist," on Google's blog.
"Finally, outer space doesn't seem so far away anymore."
The Moon is only the latest. Here are some others, from the serious to the frivolous.
Google Sky Map lets users view a labeled map of the sky on smart phones powered by Google's Android operating system.
Using GPS technology, a date clock and a compass, it helps users identify and locate all the stellar spectacles in the sky.
With a compass and an accelerometer, the application determines the exact location that your phone is facing and shows you the stars that are visible.
Let's say you want to identify the brightest star over the horizon. You just point the phone in that direction and "Venus" would pop up on your screen.
Google says the app doesn't need a line of sight to find the stars and planets. Even on a cloudy night, it will show you the stars up in the night sky.