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    Let's Map Mars!

    Cartography is the art, science and technology of making maps. Let's map Mars!

    1. Nice try

    Percival Lowell: Mars, 1895. / Giovanni Schiaparelli: Map of Mars, 1888. / Via archive.org commons.wikimedia.org

    If you try to map Mars from your backyard, you may overuse your eyes and end up with maps like this: drawing canals and oases all around Mars. Dead end. We are too far away.

    2. This Is Also Rocket Science

    The lauch of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft that carries three cameras, 2005, NASA / Via nasa.gov

    You can't make a planetary map from the Earth - You have to send there a spacecraft. But first, you will need a rocket to speed up your spacecraft.

    3. Mission Planning

    NASA FY 2015 President’s Budget Request Summary / Via nasa.gov

    You will need a platform that will carry, power and control your camera and send the Terabytes of data back to Earth. This is your spacecraft. To be able to build a spacecraft, you will need to submit a mission proposal, have it accepted by NASA or ESA and get funding from your countries' government (in the US, the Congress). Allow about 10 years before launch. Hope for further funding after you put your spacecraft into orbit.

    4. First Encounter

    All Images from the first success flyby of Mars, 1964, Mariner-4, NASA / Via nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

    Your first mission will take reconnaissance images during a quick flyby. You may consider waiting until Mars makes at least one rotation to get both hemisphere’s view. Try to take images where there are long shadows on the ground - near the terminator line, or the line between night and day.

    5. These Are Your Eyes

    Cameras onboard the MRO spacecraft. HiRISE: a high resolution (25 cm/pixel) camera, CTX: a context camera, MARCI: a color weather camera. NASA / Via mars.nasa.gov

    Now send another spacecraft into orbit around Mars. Have at least two cameras, a narrow-angle for close-up images and anothere, wide-angle for context images. Spend a few years in orbit, and collect lots of images. Perhaps 1,951,485 images will do (as of 9/7/2015).

    6. Process and Mosaic Your Images

    Mariner-9 photomosaics, NASA/JPL and CTX mosaics. / Via solarsystem.nasa.gov khanacademy.org

    A photomosaic is like a puzzle. As long as you only have a handful of images, you may try to put them together manually, but with hundreds and thousands of images, you will need to automate the process.

    7. Add Coordinates

    NASA/USGS / Via planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov

    The systems of Latitudes and Longitudes are defined for each planetary body by the International Astronomical Union. Mars has two different coordinate systems.

    8. Add Colors

    Author's work

    To be able to produce a topographic map, you need to have a laser altimeter on board. It will measure elevations underneath the spacecraft in orbit. Repeat the height measurements say, 595 million times. Fill in the missing gaps between the data points by interpolation. Now you have a digital elevation model that you can color as you will.

    9. Project it

    Author's work

    Transform your map into a cartographic projection. A projection is a mathematical method to convert coordinates on a sphere into locations on a plane. Projections come in many varieties, depending on the purpose of the map.

    10. Add Features

    Author's work

    You may make a physical map, or geographic map. Find and trace winding linear features (those will be channels or valleys), straight linear features (cracks or faults), circular features (craters, and some calderas), high elevations (mountains), and flat plains. To make such a map, you have to understand what you see in the photos. This process is called photointerpretation.

    11. Or Add Units

    Author's work

    Alternatively, you may make a scientific, geological map. In this case you will trace "contacts", changes in surface character and name the enclosed parts "units".

    12. Name Places

    Author's work

    It’s too alien without proper names. And no, you can’t name features on Mars. There is a bureocratic system of how to approve a name. The list of names, or the gazetteer, is maintained by the International Astronomical Union. They have the sole right to name surface features, even if you are the one who do the mapping.

    Invite graphic designers

    András Baranyai (Venus), Csilla Gévai (Europa), László Herbszt (the Moon), Csilla Kőszeghy (Mars), Panka Pásztohy (TItan) and Dóri Sirály (Io) / Via childrensmaps.wordpress.com

    One extra step: give the maps to graphic designers, and enjoy their output.

    Enjoy your stay!

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