The LatLong site by the Google Earth people has announced a special event for July 20th.

Frank Taylor over at the Google Earth Blog speculates:

Google sent out invitations last night to the media for an event to be held in Washington DC on July 20th – the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. The event is about the “…newest addition to Google Earth”. Given the list of speakers (Buzz Aldrin – Apollo 11 astronaut, NASA dignitaries, Anousheh Ansari – first private female space explorer, and Andrew Chaiken – author of “A Man on the Moon”), there can be little doubt what this is about. And, GEB definitely plans to attend the event!

In the summer of 2007, Google released an updated Google Moon – the 2D version for Google Maps. At the same time, Google announced the $30 Million Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP). When the new Google Moon released, GEB immediately speculated on how soon Google Earth would have a 3D version of the moon (see the last part of this article on the GLXP announcement). So, I’m pretty confident we’ll be seeing the release of a 3D Moon mode for Google Earth. Google released a 3D Mars mode for Google Earth earlier this year. So, the moon is naturally going to be next. And, for the record, NASA has their own virtual globe application called WorldWind which has had a 3D moon mode available for several years now.

Google will surely make use of NASA Apollo mission imagery (panoramas, video, and stills – like in the 2D Google Moon), and hopefully HD video of the moon from the Japanese JAXA SELENE mission. More importantly, I’m sure we’ll see some nice 3D terrain for the moon.

Head over to the LatLong site Monday to check it out!

– July 20 Update from the LatLong Blog site:

Today, on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, Google is proud to announce the release of Moon in Google Earth, bringing you one step closer to understanding the experience of standing on the moon. It brings the Apollo stories out of the history books, recreating them in an immersive and interactive 3D environment.

To see for yourself, all you need is Google Earth 5.0 (if you already have it, no upgrade is required). Just click the planet button on the top toolbar of Google Earth, and choose Moon. You’ll be flow to the Moon, at which point you have all the same usual Google Earth controls — drag your mouse on the globe to fly around, and use the Layers panel in the lower-left corner to discover content. Double-click any Layers item to fly to it.

Each of the Apollo landing missions is chronicled in detail through pictures and stories. We’ve even embedded video footage from Spacecraft Films that covers the most well-known moments on the surface. There are also immersive lunar surface panoramas, composed of photos taken by the astronauts themselves, presented for the first time in a 3D “Street View” style interface.