"Virtually visit any place in the world."
NASA World Wind is an interesting and powerful application that lets you use a virtual three-dimensional globe to zoom into any place on earth using a variety of map/satellite imagery formats. This program is designed to be used on personal computers, and is part of an open source NASA development project that has been ongoing since 2004.
With a file size of 180 MB, this software is very large and could take up to several hours to download, depending on your Internet connection. Fortunately, the installation takes nowhere near as long, as you'll be able to complete it using a user-friendly wizard style setup that guides you through the entire process. NASA World Wind is available in a Java version that is cross-platform compatible and includes several demo applications, however the non-Java version is only compatible with Windows.
The NASA World Wind user interface is extremely diverse, and functionality can be extended using a variety of add-ons and plug-ins. The design of the main window is very modern, with a plethora of self-explanatory image icons located along a scrollbar that provides easy access to all of the most important features. The top taskbar has five main menus – File, Edit, View, Tools, and Help.
Integrated "Place Finder" search engine gives you the ability to quickly locate major landmarks and popular landscapes like the Grand Canyon, Time Square, Rocky Mountains etc. Each designated landmark has attached captions that provide links to relative information, including the place's Wikipedia page. You can also add your own favorite places to the database, and view your recent history of visited locations.
Lets you apply a variety of layers that change the overall appearance of the globe
Utilizes six government imagery sources to display the world in a variety of formats
Get an up close look at the moon and view its craters, plains, deserts, and even the Apollo 11 landing site in great detail
Convenient multifunctional mouse commands make it easy to zoom in/out and rotate the globe using your mouse rollover button
Re-creates the famous Lewis and Clark coast-to-coast expedition trail
Somewhat sluggish image resolution, so it can take a while to load zoomed in imagery, depending on your processor and Internet connection speed
Being that each location has its own caption assigned to it, the globe can become extremely crowded with information boxes if you're zooming in on metropolitan areas. However, it is possible to disable this feature within the options menu.
The most notable alternative to this software is Google Earth, which provides many of the same features, yet has become far more popular since its inception just six months after the release of NASA World Wind. Many people prefer Google Earth over NASA World Wind because it has a smaller file size that takes up less disk space, and typically loads image resolutions faster. However, NASA World Wind is known for having more comprehensive map layers, and is therefore an ideal option for advanced users.
If you're looking for a professional-grade software that gives you an incredible look at planet Earth, NASA World Wind would be an excellent selection.
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