The most extreme places on Earth that look exactly like Mars

If you thought Mars was completely different from Earth, think again.

MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Edited by Jason Major.Panoramic view of Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover and assembled by Jason Major. The hill at the left (eastern) edge is called Apikuni Mountain.

Our warm, blue planet is more similar in some ways to the desolate Red Planet than you know, and we have comparison images to prove it.

For almost three years, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been driving across the Martian surface, exploring a region called Gale Crater, located in the southern hemisphere. And the images it has taken look strikingly similar to some of the most extreme places on Earth, like Death Valley and the Atacama Desert.

Below are five comparisons that show a picture of Mars on top and Earth on the bottom. Jason Major — who blogs about all things space at Lights in the Dark — assembled the panoramic images of Mars below, and you can find more examples on his Flickr page.

1. Flat valleys on Mars look just like the ones along the Badwater basin in the Death Valley National Park.


Top: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Edited by Jason Major on Flickr. Bottom: Wendy on Flickr

2. Tall mounds in Ica, Peru — a place so dry that human remains naturally mummify instead of decomposing because of lack of moisture — look disturbingly similar to the ones on Mars, which is equally dry.


Top: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Composite by Jason Major. Bottom: Tito Cornejo Crosby on Flickr.

3. Rolling, dust-ridden hills on Mars are akin to the hills you can find just outside of the desert town of Wadi Halfa, located in the center of the Sahara desert — the world’s third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic.

4. The world’s driest non-polar desert, the Atacama Desert in South America, is a great place to test out future Mars rovers because the two environments are so similar. Here you can see one of Curiosity’s epic selfies (above) juxtiposed against the European Space Agency’s prototype of their 2018 ExoMars mission in the Atacama Desert (below).


Top: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Edit by Jason Major. Bottom: ESO/G. Hudepohl on Flickr.

5. This incredible shot of a ridge in Gale crater shows that rocks on Mars aren’t so different from rocks on Earth, like the ones in Libya shown below. Both generate towering mounds with distinctive parallel slits etched in the surface.

These images suggest that the first people to walk on Mars might not feel so alone. After spending months in space on their journey to the Red Planet, they will land on an alien world that might not feel so alien, after all.

NOW WATCH: Matt Damon is left to die on Mars in first trailer for ‘The Martian’

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.