British mapping agency Ordnance Survey creates easy-to-read map using Nasa open data, which could be used while walking on the surface of Mars
The British mapping agency Ordnance Survey has created an easy-to-read map of Mars’ surface using Nasa open data.
The landing sites of past rovers are featured on the map, including the Mars Pathfinder in north-west Ares Vallis and the Opportunity rover, east of Margaritifer Terra.
Cartographic designer Chris Wesson “designed the map over a couple of months”, according to the Ordnance Survey blog. It is the first landscape the agency has mapped from another planet.
“It was a little hard at first to actually understand the data itself in terms of things like the elevation and the scale and so on,” Wesson told BBC. “But actually the physical process was almost identical to what was used to make an Earth map, or any OS map.”
Despite Mars’ nickname and its crimson surface, OS did not produce a red map. Wesson said he chose a green and pink color scheme because “Earth-based maps are not always blue and green” and he wanted “to represent the data in the way OS would have had we been given Earth data to create a regular map sheet in a typical OS style”.
He added: “Red is also a very dominant colour that is not very supporting of thematic overlays such as landing sites or place names.”
Wesson believes this map is different than other maps of the planet because he treated the Mars data the same as “any other Earth-based geographic information or landscape”.
“I think even though the principles are the same, the design and the aesthetics of an Earth map differ considerably from any planetary map that I’ve seen before,” he said. “I love planetary maps and find them visually very appealing … but they do often seem to be, as is their inherent nature, very scientific and unnatural in their presentation.”
Ordnance Survey was asked to commission the map by British scientist Dr Peter Grindrod at Birkbeck, University of London, according to the BBC. Grindrod is one of the scientists helping to plan the landing of a new rover on Mars in 2019.
Asked if he thought people might be using his map while “walking on the surface of Mars” one day, Wesson was unsure.
“It is a nice thought, that one day people could pinpoint the landscape around them from a map just as in the British countryside, but the map may be quite different by then.”
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