Mapping Mars with ArcGIS Pro

I only discovered relatively recently that the Desktop suite is not limited to mapping Earth. Hidden amongst the thousands of coordinate systems available, you can find those for mapping planets within the Solar System.

Just for kicks, I downloaded all the geological data from Mars to have a look in ArcGIS Pro and see how it would fare in the hybrid 2D/3D interface.

You can try this out for yourselves by downloading the data from the USGS here. The datasets are conveniently provided in a file geodatabase and the layers come with some standard symbology in MXDs, so it’s an easy feat to import into ArcGIS Pro.

Import Map

Create a new project, and once you import the MXD, you can view the geology of the whole planet. There’s also data and maps for just the North Pole.

You may need to adjust the coordinate system in the Map Properties. You can find a Mars coordinate system in Geographic Coordinate Systems > Solar System > Mars. However, there are some custom projection files that come with the data, and you should use these.

Projections System

Just like that, you can start viewing Mars data right on your desktop.


However, that is not the best part! There’s a nifty little tool that easily converts your data between 2D and 3D in the View Menu.


You can adjust the symbology of the hillshade to give it more of a “Mars-like” colour.



Overlay it with some Mars landmarks point data, and that’s all there is to it. You can explore the terrain and boldly go where no one has gone before!

Ebony Wicks


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