Terraforming for Beginners

Terragen is software for generating landscapes. Landscapes on Earth but just as easily on other worlds, as is shown for example by Kees Veenenbos. Years ago I loaded some elevation data from NASA’s Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter into Terragen and I did some experimenting. There is a new version of the program now, which was a good reason to take those old terrain data off the shelf again.

Rocks and grass

There is much more possible with Terragen, these days. In the old days only aerial views could be made somewhat realistic but nowadays you can add rocks, grass clumps, and other types of upholstery which make also pictures at ground level believable.

So I once again got back to an old passion: terraforming Mars. Here we are, for example, in the highlands of Tharsis on the edge of Hebes Chasma, a northern extension of Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon of Mars. A layer of fresh snow covers the landscape, moss has found its way to rocks and stones and in sheltered places some grass and other low vegetation can survive.

The tireless Mars rover

And who do we see there? It’s Opportunity, the NASA rover that landed on the Red Planet in 2004, with a life expectancy of only three months. But the mission was extended many times and even now that the terraforming is underway the rover is still moving from rock to rock.

This image was created with the free version of Terragen, which is limited to 1280×900 pixels. If I want more I have to purchase the professional version. But I’ll need to think of a business model first …

hebes_chasma_opportunity

UPDATE: I developed the concept of an indestructible rover a little bit further in Opportunity’s Bicentennial.

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