Ordnance Survey maps Mars surface in stunning detail

Ordnance Survey (OS)’s latest map is of something a little more adventurous than that slightly treacherous hike Welsh you attempted last summer – the British mapping agency have created a paper and digital map of the Martian landscape, which has been published on Flickr. 

Instead of detailing motorways, national trails and visitor centres, OS used NASA open data to detail the red planet's geography such as craters, mountains and previous landing sites of Mars probes to a scale of 1 to 4 million.

If you ever find yourself taking a wrong turn and ending up on Mars, hope you find yourself in Western Arabia Terra - the 3672km x 2721km that the map details, which is nearly 7% of Mars’ surface.

As well as past landing sites, the map is also being used to decide the landing place for the ExoMars 2018 missionThe reduced map (below) shows three of the four potential landing spots. 

“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,” said Chris Wesson, the cartographer who designed the map. “Even though the principles are the same, the design and the aesthetics of an Earth map differ considerably.

“The cartographic style is something that is very different to your typical planetary map and is identifiable as an OS map. 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.”

Not only is this the first time OS have produced a map of another planet, but the first time since the mid-1990s they have created a map outside of Britain. The map was created to help plan the next Mars landing project in 2019. 

“The private sector and space agencies are currently in competition to land the first person on Mars,” said David Henderson, OS Director of Products. “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.”

OS’s effort is not the first time Mars has been mapped – Google Mars was created by the tech giant in 2009.

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