The chances of finding life on Mars just went up after Google significantly boosted its coverage of the red planet in Google Earth.

New features added at the weekend include almost-live views from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars, historical maps of the planet and guided tours with audio from well-known scientists.

Rover retreads

Google has also added 3D models of some of the NASA rover vehicles that allow remote viewers on Earth to follow their trails on a second-hand virtual voyage of discovery.

Sci-fi fans will probably get the biggest kick out of the 19th-century maps of Mars, showing what were then thought to be canals built by Martians.

NASA deal

However, we are particularly impressed by the quickly updated pictures from Odyssey taken by the THEMIS thermal camera on the orbiter.

Cutting out the usual delays before images go public was made possible by a special research deal between Google and NASA.