Google Earth to explore oceans, Mars

February 2, 2009 7:45:25 PM PST
Few of us will ever have the opportunity to deep sea dive and explore the underwater world, but starting Monday, a new feature from Google changes that.

Most people think of Earth as land masses, but in reality, two-thirds of earth's surface is water.

And now Google Earth -- in development for three years -- can take viewers underwater to see what lies below.

The new version of Google Earth was unveiled Monday at the California Academy of Sciences, one of 80 organizations, scientists and deep sea explorers who contributed data and images.

"This will allow us to get that content out to a whole new audience," John Caldwell, Jr., National Gepgraphic's president of digital media said. "This is a new platform and the story-telling that the National Geographic has been so strong at over the past 121 years is now going to be represented to what we think is going to be a whole new audience."

It also means that taxpayer-funded research will be more widely accessible.

"So we're going from having information and data available to thousands, maybe millions of people, to having it available and accessible to billions of people instantly," Richard Spinrad, Ph.D. of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, along with former Vice President Al Gore, hope the new ocean feature will open minds to environmental issues.

"Did you know that there's more biodiversity in the ocean than there is in the Amazon," Schmidt asked. "I didn't until I got involved in this, and I started learning about the role of the oceans."

Besides the depths of the ocean, Google also has its high-tech eye on Mars. It has launched a tour of the so-called "Red Planet," using images taken by unmanned rovers and landers.

There's an expression that sometimes people are inundated with too much information. With all the data that has now been incorporated into Google Earth, people will have a lot of information to digest.