When space travelers finally traipse across the dusty Martian surface, they'll know just what kind of terrain to expect thanks to scientists at the European Space Agency who are producing the first "hiker's maps" of the red planet.
The new topographic maps, based on data collected by the ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, could become the standard cartographic reference for future Martian research, as well as exploration on foot.
The ESA eventually will create topographic maps for the entire surface of Mars, which would mean more than 10,000 maps each of equal area.
For starters, researchers have created a map of the Iani Chaos region, chosen for the rock "islands" that litter the landscape in an interesting, chaotic pattern. These rocks are likely the remains of a previous Martian surface that collapsed when the ice supporting subsurface cavities melted from volcanic heat.
All the maps will feature the names of geological features and detailed height contours of the landscape.
Contour lines are superimposed onto high-resolution images of Mars taken by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard Mars Express. The lines help the eye to follow the morphology of the surface.
The data have also been transformed into 3-D computer models of Mars's surface.
- Mars Madness: A Multimedia Adventure!
- Image: Where Floods Once Flowed
- Images: Mars Express Discoveries
- All About Mars