Ordnance Survey, an organization in charge of mapping out Britain’s transit ways, has created a digital map of Mars – its foray into mapping another planet.
The one-off mapping project is for a British scientist planning the landings of the 2018 ExoMars rover of the European Space Agency. The produced physical and digitally made map of the Red Planet could also guide the planned human navigation on the planet in the coming decades.
Created using NASA open data, the Mars map covers an area on the planet that is 40 times the size of the United Kingdom and roughly the size of the United States. It translates to 7 percent of Mars’ surface.
Cartographer Chris Wesson said that while the principles are the same, an Earth map is different in design and aesthetics from any other planetary map he has ever seen. Instead of marking landmarks like churches, he had to signpost where craters and landing sites are.
“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 meters depth, hence the need for different lighting and surface exaggerations,” explains Wesson.
The contours, he added, were highly complicated and jagged-looking. Smoothing them posed as a challenge.
The OS map of Mars was an idea that hailed from planetary scientist Dr. Peter Grindrod of London’s Birkbeck University, who wondered if one could take a typical Mars map and turn it into the an easy-to-read map that OS is quite known for.
However, contrary to what one may assume, the map is not all red, as what the planet of interest is known for.
“[Even] Earth-based maps are not always blue and green... Red is also a very dominant colour that is not very supporting of thematic overlays such as landing sites or place names,” said Wesson, who previously worked on unique maps such as the International World Friendliness map and another for Europe’s bestselling newspapers by country, illustrated by their current front page.
The hope is for the map to be suitable for upcoming Mars missions in the next five or 10 years, including the ExoMars journey that will set off in 2018.
ExoMars will drill to see what lies beneath the planetary surface and probe any signs of former or current life.
There are four potential landing sites for ESA’s rover, namely Mawrth Vallis, Oxia Planum, Aram Dorsum, and Hypanis Vallis. All four are believed to harbor plenty of water before drying up.
Back in September, NASA discovered water on the Red Planet, and then released a report in October predicting that humans will be living there by the 2030s.