Mention the words “Ordnance Survey” to any countryside-loving Brit and they’ll likely regale you with tales of idyllic Sunday morning hikes through remote lush landscapes, their trusty OS map guiding them along the way.
Ordnance Survey (OS) – the UK’s mapping agency – has been helping ramblers ramble for more than 200 years, and has stayed popular thanks to its ability to create incredibly detailed maps that don’t compromise on clarity.
OS, which also provides mapping products for governments and companies, has kept up with the times, too, for a long while offering iOS and Android apps alongside its famous printed maps.
And now, for the first time, the agency is looking beyond British shores, indeed beyond Earth itself, with a new map that details the surface of Mars.
Posted on its Flickr page, the map was built using NASA data and covers about 3.8 million square miles (about 10m sq km) of the Martian surface. Look closely and you’ll find among its many details the landing sites for NASA’s Pathfinder and Opportunity missions.
Created in the same style as the Ordnance Survey’s British offerings – though of course showing distinctly different features – the map’s creator, Chris Wesson, said it was always the intention to “treat the Mars data no different to how we would OS GB data or any other Earth-based geographic information or landscape.”
Challenges included getting his head around the red planet’s topography. “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,” Wesson explained.
A one-off printed edition of the many will also be presented to University of London scientist Dr Peter Grindrod, who’s part of a team planning the landing of the European ExoMars rover in three years’ time.
Noting how private sector groups and space agencies are competing to land the first person on Mars, OS director of products David Henderson said in a release, “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.”
While it’s likely to be some considerable time before we see any space ramblers strolling across the dusty red surface of the faraway planet, imagine the kudos for the British mapping agency if the hikers have its Mars map in hand when they do.