The most extreme places on Earth that look exactly like Mars

Jessica Orwig

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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