Space agencies like NASA are exploring more and more of our universe than ever before. In the 12 months alone, we've had new views of Jupiter, footage from Pluto, and even evidence of entire new solar systems that may be able to support liquid water and life.
But you could still argue that when it comes to space, nothing is more exciting right now than Mars. We already have rovers exploring its surface, sending back beautiful footage. Have a look for yourself below, with this 360° panorama taken by the Mars rover Curiosity.
Meanwhile, NASA—as well as private space companies like Space X and Blue Origin—are all promising to send humans to Mars within the next 20 years or less.
Not ready yet
Still, experts warn that just travelling to Mars will be a very difficult task for humans. The nine-month journey alone would test the bodies of the astronauts to stay healthy in zero gravity environment. (Our bodies are, after all, designed to live with gravity. Too little gravity over a long time affects our muscles and organs.) Then there's the powerful radiation they would experience on the trip. And all of this is before they even reach the planet!
The trip isn't necessarily impossible. It's just not possible yet.
In the meantime, we still have a way to "travel" to Mars through this incredible movie!
Fiction based on fact
A Fictive Flight Above Real Mars is more than just the title of this video. It's also a great description of it. Though it looks like a real video shot by a craft approaching and then flying over the surface of the planet, it is actually based on still photographs. The pictures were taken by NASA's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment satellite, or HiRISE. HiRISE has been mapping the surface of Mars for about 12 years and has so far shot 50,000 grayscale (similar to black and white) images.
The job of turning these gray images into a full-colour video was taken on by Finnish filmmaker Jan Fjördman. He spent three months "stitching" and colouring pictures on his computer until we were left with this incredible "finnished" (ha!) product. And because HiRISE provides stereoscopic images, Fjördman was able to make this a 3D experience (no glasses required!). In the end, it genuinely feels as though you're in a spacecraft gently cruising above the peaceful alien world below.
So strap on your spacesuit and prepare to go to Mars. You'll still be home for dinner, we promise!