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.


Be sure to check out Celle's Mars blog and the rest of his Mars DA album. Follow him on Twitter here. And if you're interested in prints of his images, head over to his RedBubble Gallery.