Astrogeology Science Center

Become A Cartographer

29 June 2017

One of the hottest jobs in the 2000s is a cartographer. No need to know who Anaximander is, but you might intend to pursue a spatial science background. If you like map making, then you can do what you love, you can make a decent salary, and you will be in demand! According to Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence, a report from the National Research Council, "Future shortages in cartography, photogrammetry, and geodesy seem likely because the number of graduates is too small (tens to hundreds) to give NGA choices or means of meeting sudden demand." That being said, would you like a more thorough definition of what cartography is and what it means to be a cartographer today in the planetary sciences? Randy Kirk, a brilliant geophysicist and cartographer, now working in a scientist emeritus capacity, discusses cartographic work today. Get the inside scoop and become more acquainted with cartography.



Credit: NASA

Excerpt: " The dictionary definition of cartography, “the science or art of making maps” [1] succeeds or fails on the breadth of one’s definition of a “map”. Printed maps and globes, the traditional examples, are still useful but have mostly been supplanted by digital and increasingly more dynamic products. The use of “cartography” as a blanket term in the NASA planetary exploration community is arguably a historical accident, related to the establishment of oversight and planning groups beginning with the Lunar Photography and Cartography Committee in 1974 and evolving into the Planetary Cartography and Geologic Mapping Working Group (PCGMWG) by 1994 [2]. Through the lunar/planetary cartography program overseen by these groups, NASA recognized its need for a wide range of spatial data products to support scientific research, generated by an evolving mix of technologies evolving from photographic processing, airbrush artistry, and analytical photogrammetry [3] toward an increasingly integrated set of solutions for processing, organizing and presenting spatial data in digital form. Perhaps unfortunately, the narrow term “cartography” remained in use as a cover for this evolving program over several decades. Yet, it would be equally naïve to define planetary cartography as “the activity of NASA’s planetary cartography program”. Not only does this leave out the crucial contributions of other national and international space agencies, it fails to recognize that a great deal of the work is done by missions (e.g., characterization, geometric and radiometric calibration of instruments by the teams of experts that developed them, implementation of data processing pipelines, and production of first if not always final drafts of key map products), as well as by investigators funded by other research and analysis programs."


Read more of Randy's abstract