Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Utopia Planitia Online

If you visited the Google website earlier this week you may have seen their logo was modified as a tribute to Perceval Lowell and his studies of Mars, and the launch of Google Mars with its interactive map of the red planet.

See the List of Planitia on Mars

If you follow the above link, and search through the list of plains (or planitia) on the left, you can find Utopia toward the end of the list and find it on the map. Utopia Planitia is, of course, the site of Starfleet's Ship Yards and the birthplace of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

More precisely this is the location over which the ship yards are in a geosynchronous orbit as explained in the ST:TNG Technical Manual and confirmed by visual evidence from the Voyager episode "Relativity". (This makes me wonder if Earth Station McKinley is in geosynchronous orbit above Mt. McKinley.)

The idea of the Utopia Planitia Ship Yards was introduced during The Next Generation. It was mentioned (and barely shown through a window) in the episode "Booby Trap". Geordi used the Enterprise's design specifications from its original construction as a reference. This holodeck program, which also included a re-creation of Dr. Leah Brahms, was briefly seen again in the episode "Galaxy's Child" when the real Dr. Brahms stumbled across the program and her doppelganger, much to Geordi's chagrin.

In the seventh season episode "Eye of the Beholder" it is learned that a brutal murder was committed on the Enterprise during its construction at Utopia Planitia, but again, we never really got to see what the Ship Yards were actually like.

But finally we got to see Utopia Planitia during Voyager's fifth season, and now we can see its name-sake on Google Mars.