By the turn of the 23rd Century, our founding Martian colonies will be so large and developed we'll be able to see them from space, providing a spectacular view as visitors ride down on the Tharsis Space Elevator.
Titled "The Space Elevator to Mars — Descent At Dusk," this is a stunning new piece of concept art put together by French professional graphic artist Ludovic Celle. I contacted him to learn more about the design process and what inspired him to make it.
"This image — like most of my Mars work — is based on Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars)," he says. "I read the books around 2007 and since then, I never stopped creating visuals inspired straight from these terrific books."
In term of process, Celle works exclusively in open-source programs. His computer runs on Ubuntu (GNU/Linux), and he uses Gimp, Blender, and Inkscape for his creations.
"This choice is part of my global ethic and fits with lots of things I loved in KSR books, like the democratic, collaborative and cooperative spirit, and all this DIY aspects of the settlement on Mars," Celle told io9. "I think Linux and all free/libre software and projects are the future and teach us the best way to prepare for the Martian lifestyle. My Mars art series is sort of a tribute to the visionary society that K.S. Robinson described, and as an ecologist, I try to express an environmental approach to the Mars' colonization."
Though it may not appear so, the art piece is a composite picture. The Mars background is made of three layers. Celle used NASA's Mars Global Surveyor topographic map to build a 3D model of the entire area (the Tharsis region and surrounding) on Blender, to which he set the right height scale and lighting. Celle then 2D-exported the shadowed fly-by in high definition and manipulated it in Gimp. The final process involved adding the cable (a 3D model), the clouds, light effects, the terminator (or dusk shadow) and a number of color enhancements.
"So, this image is really a mix between 3D and photomanipulation, based on NASA's Viking and MGS awesome imagery, which can be found here," he says. "I owe special thanks to the excellent astronomy photo-mosaic maker Daniel Macháček.