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Mars Mapped by Ordnance Survey

Mars Mapped by Ordnance Survey Ordnance Survey create a map of the surface of Mars

Britain’s mapping agency Ordnance Survey has used NASA’s open source data to create a detailed map of the Martian landscape.

The 1:4,000,000 scale map has been produced to see if there’s any potential for it to be used on forthcoming Mars missions.

David Henderson, OS Director of Products, explained: “The private sector and space agencies are currently in competition to land the first person on Mars. Becoming more familiar with space is something that interests us all and the opportunity to apply our innovative cartography and mapping tradecraft to a different planet was something we couldn’t resist.

“We were asked to map an area of Mars in an OS style because our maps are easy to understand and present a compelling visualisation, and because of this we can envisage their usefulness in planning missions and for presenting information about missions to the public.”

The new map covers a 3672 by 2721km area of the Red Planet. OS Cartographic Design Consultant, Chris Wesson, who designed the map, said: “We have set out from the start to treat the Mars data no different to how we would treat OS GB data or any other Earth-based geography. Even though the principles are the same, the design and the aesthetics of an Earth map differ considerably.

Ordnance Survey create a map of the surface of Mars

Chris added: “The key ingredients to this style are the soft colour palette of the base combined with the traditional map features such as contours and grid lines, and the map sheet layout complete with legend.”

Some of the challenges that Chris encountered were that much of the area is at minus elevation, below ‘sea-level’. Chris said: “Mars is a very different topography to the Earth to map. The surface is very bumpy but at such a large scale I had vast expanses of land that appeared flat relative to the craters each of several thousands of metres depth, hence the need for different lighting and surface exaggerations.”

Read more from map designer Chris Wesson here.