Shape of things to come

Competition to map the first human outpost on Mars

National Geographic: Sure, NASA has plenty of scientists hard at work mapping the geology of potential Martian landing sites. But designing maps to help humans navigate, study, and survive in an alien landscape will require an entirely different set of skills—the kinds of skills that cartographers, graphic artists, and people who love maps might have.

Mars-ez-coprates chasma

One of 47 possible exploration zones on Mars that could be visited by humans.

So, the International Cartographic Association is holding a competition to come up with the best map design for astronauts who would spend about a year on the surface of Mars as part of a mission proposed for the 2030s.

“This project is on the boundary between scifi, game design, graphic arts and science, like cartography is.” Henrik Hargitai, NASA planetary scientist

Mars Exploration Zones: This concept animation shows just one of many potential concepts for how the first human landing site on Mars might evolve throughout the course of multiple human expeditions to the Red Planet over a decade or more.

See also

  • ICA Call for maps: Mars Exploration Zone Map Design Competition
  • Ordnance Survey map of Mars“The planet Mars has become the latest subject in our long line of iconic OS paper maps. The one-off map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions.”
  • If the Earth were 100 pixels wide, the Moon would be 3000 pixels away, and Mars… well, you’ll have to see for yourself.
  • Canyonlands National Park texture and shaded relief map — National Park Service cartographer Tom Patterson is a master of texture and shaded relief. He’s released this gorgeous map of Canyonlands National to the public domain.
  • The first relief map — [Hans Conrad Gyger’s] map of the Zurich area took 38 years to survey and paint, and is considered as one of the most beautiful cartographic works of that time. Because of its high military importance the map was kept secret, and, unfortunately, had no influence on contemporary cartography. Not until 200 years later were shaded relief maps of comparable quality and beauty produced.
  • The flag of planet Earth — Oskar Pernefeldt’s graduation project is a flag for our world, “to remind the people of Earth that we share this planet, no matter of national boundaries”.
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