George Bernard Shaw is credited with the quote, but for many – baby boomers especially – Robert F. Kennedy gave it currency.

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”

Coupled with his brother, President John F. Kennedy’s famous challenge for America to send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth, it ignited the imaginations of many. We are still working off some of that same energy.

In the 1960s, there was a lot of “why” in the air. That’s one reason the challenges of the two Kennedys resonated so well. It’s not that people did not challenge limits up to that point. Here were two leaders actually telling us not only to challenge limits, but don’t accept limits.

Today, we see cargo missions to an orbiting space habitat conducted by a private, commercial space transportation company as almost routine. But, when John Kennedy issued his challenge, there had not yet been a successful manned space flight. Today, as we can see in Mary Shacklett’s “Taking BIM Into Space,” we are well past simple space flight and actively planning for how to build a habitat on the Moon or another planet. To do so means taking terrestrial methods and technologies and turning them over and over until they morph into some new form uniquely suited to an unearthly host.

Identifying building materials, defining construction techniques, and developing new technologies to erect these currently theoretical habitats is well underway, and NASA has issued an open invitation for anyone to join the process.

There’s an echo of that same broad collaboration in Linda Duffy’s “Global Efforts Map the Ocean Floor.” The term to pay attention to is “crowd-sourced data.” It’s a burgeoning area for geospatial development because it employs many sources to provide the vast amounts of data needed for such wide-area mapping. Another phrase associated with this crowd-sourcing movement is to collect data once and use it many times.

Duffy describes fishermen feeding data they collect in their normal working day to the mapping project. With proper standards and filters, the crowd data can vastly improve the efficiency of such a large-scale project while helping to contain the high cost of data collection.

It’s a new era for the geospatial professions, and it’s only just beginning. The new generation of professionals is past asking, “why?” They aren’t even asking, “why not?” They see a question more like a stated challenge and respond, “let’s go.”

Are You Ready for the Trip?

In May 2016, GeoDataPoint’s sister publication, Point of Beginning (POB) reported on a mapping project that seemed pretty far out. Based on this issue of GDP, the timing may have been better than we thought.

Mars mapping projectAt Ordnance Survey in the UK, we quoted David Henderson, OS director of products, acknowledging: “The private sector and space agencies are currently in competition to land the first person on Mars. Becoming more familiar with space is something that interests us all and the opportunity to apply our innovative cartography and mapping tradecraft to a different planet was something we couldn’t resist.”

The group used NASA open data to produce a detailed map of Mars. Data was primarily collected by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor mission. Names came from the International Astronomical Union. The data was translated into ESRI formats and then standard cartographic routines in GIS used to create contours, hillshading, colors, initial name placement, etc., OS explained.

Henderson continued, “We were asked to map an area of Mars in an OS style because our maps are easy to understand and present a compelling visualization, and because of this we can envisage their usefulness in planning missions and for presenting information about missions to the public.”

The new map covers a 3,672-by-2,721 kilometer extent of the Mars surface (3.8m sq miles or roughly the size of the United States) and has been produced to a scale of 1 to 4 million. Chris Wesson, the OS cartographic design consultant who designed the map said: “We have set out from the start to treat the Mars data no different to how we would treat OS Great Britain data or any other Earth-based geography. Even though the principles are the same, the design and the aesthetics of an Earth map differ considerably. The key ingredients to this style are the soft color palette of the base combined with the traditional map features such as contours and grid lines, and the map sheet layout complete with legend. Once I understood the datasets and projection properly, the process was the essentially the same [as producing a conventional terrestrial map].

With the level of interest in the Mars map, OS has created a printed version to hang on the wall. It is available from OS at