Ordnance Survey release global map of Mars

  • By Notario Sardu


Ordnance Survey Map Mars

Using NASA open data, Ordnance Survey has created a one-off paper and digital map of the Martian landscape. OS, whose database of the UK has 500 million unique geographic features and is currently working with other countries on four different countries to improve their geo capabilities, has produced the Mars map to see if Ordnance Survey mapping has potential use for future Mars missions.

This is the first time that OS has produced a map of territory from another planet. The ‘easy read’ map has also been printed in a one-off edition for a British scientist helping to plan the landing of a rover on Mars in 2019.

“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.” said the OS cartographer behind the map, Chris Wesson. “But actually the physical process was almost identical to what was used to make an Earth map, or any OS map.”

The map itself covers roughly 10 million sq km (3.8 million sq miles) in a scale of 1:4’000’000 which is only around 7% of the total Martian surface. The scale means that the printed map whilst only achieving a 7% coverage still covers almost 1 square mile of printed cartology.

Wesson said he could imagine a future astronaut using a copy of the map in digital form when exploring manned missions to Mars.

“You have these large areas that looked flat but they’re actually really rocky and uneven surfaces, that was the most difficult bit of the map, to try to show that but put it in proportion to these huge craters.”

OS was asked to make the map by Dr Peter Grindrod, a British scientist at Birkbeck, University of London.

Grindrod is helping to plan the landing of the European ExoMars rover in early 2019.

Grindrod said he had always admired OS maps and pointed out that they are good at including lots of information in an easily read format.

“It’s wonderful to see the same style applied to Mars, and especially such a fascinating region.” he said.


Whilst maps and atlases have existed of Mars for many years this is the first time a map using the same well known interface as domestic maps has been produced.