MapCarte 251/365: Lunar Landings Map by NASA, 1969



Our fascination with the Moon can be traced back to Galileo who, in the early 17th Century, started making maps of the surface using telescopes. In the mid-1650s, many others including the astronomer Giovnni Battista Riccioli also made maps and named many of the features, the names of which survive to today.

The use of unmanned space craft by NASA in the 1960s enabled far more detailed maps to be made. It’s Lunar Earthside Mosaic was a composite map created form many individual photographs. This version, at a scale of 1:2,500,000 used an orthographic projection and was used to plot Moon landings. Quite simply, it’s a beautifully detailed composite aerial photograph of the surface of the moon. The addition of labels that we’ve ascribed to the features gives it the appearance of being a little more inhabited than it is. It certainly helps us to characterise and converse about it in a way we couldn’t otherwise do.

Set against an inky black background, the simple blues and greys of the Moon stand out perfectly and the black typography is unobtrusive and uses thin line weights. A simple map created from a highly complex process.

MapCarte 217/365: Apollo 11 traverse on a football pitch by Joe O’Dea and Thomas Schwagmeier, 2005



Comparisons are extremely important for visual communication. Without comparisons we have no baseline about which we can make some sort of decision. When maps are involved, we often see areas that exhibit more, or less…or have values that are higher or lower. We sometimes use multiple maps to display how patterns have changed over time. There’s many techniques but the fundamental principle involves giving your map reader a basis for comparison to support their ability to assess what they are looking at relative to something else. Making the ‘something else’ familiar or understandable is crucial.

So if you were mapping the geography of the first moon landings by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin how do you give your reader a comparison given no-one, by definition, would ever (or are very unlikely ever) to have seen the place. The answer is to give them something that is familiar. The map presented here plots the various activities of the moon landing faithfully. It uses simple geometries that in themselves are understandable. Presenting the work atop a football pitch with its universally familiar markings is a clever approach. immediately, we have a sense of scale and extent. The football pitch is arguably the most internationally of sports and translates well with no other language or description necessary. The fact they gave it a strong colour and made it integral to the work also benefits the map. They could have used a faded outline but for comparison we need a strong visual.

An excellent use of a comparative symbol and extent to support the main map reading task.