Science 3 min read

Potential Landing Sites for SpaceX Starship Revealed

Image courtesy Shutterstuck

Image courtesy Shutterstuck

Determined to meet its tight deadline, SpaceX is hard at work getting its hardware ready for Mars — a feat that would launch the first interplanetary human-crewed mission in human history.

After spending five days docked to the ISS, SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule has made a successful re-entry and landing, although it was toasted in the process.

As the first private company to do so, SpaceX is writing a new chapter in the American spaceflight history.

But SpaceX’s most significant milestones in the foreseeable future would be succeeding its first Mars mission, set for 2024. For that, the company has the Starship, a launch vehicle, to replace its current rockets and spacecraft, specially-designed to increase the overall efficiency of treacherous spaceflights.

Expected to make its debut next year, Starship will service low Earth orbit, as well as the Moon, before eventually covering Mars as a commercial destination.

In the Search for Mars Landing Sites

Elon Musk isn’t playing around about his plan to colonize Mars! He’s already considering possible landing sites on the Red Planet for Starship’s first mission.

Now, as first reported by the Behind the Black blog, NASA images show several possible landing sites on Mars.

The images are contained in a data release from the University of Arizona’s HiRise camera (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Labeled as “Candidate landing site for SpaceX Starship,” these images show places on Mars where ice reserves could be buried near the Martian soil. Accessible ice would be a valuable water resource for future settlers who have to worry about so many other scarce resources like air and fuel.

“The evidence that SpaceX is looking for locations near buried glaciers is further reinforced by the fact that all the locations above are inside the northern 30-60 degree latitude band where Martian glaciers are thought to exist in abundance, either as lobate aprons or concentric crater glaciers,” says Robert Zimmerman, the blog’s writer.

SpaceX also seems to be looking for sites with flat terrain and a relatively mild climate, of course by Martian standards.

With a one microradian resolution (0.3 meters at a height of 300 km) HiRise camera can picture 1 foot per pixel, three times more resolution than Google Maps can provide for places on Earth. It takes a long time for the camera to span the picture of the desired location and send it back to Earth, so usually, requests are filed months in advance.

While the blog highlights five sites, Business Insider says there could be at least nine potential landing sites on Mars based on HiRise image requests filed by a NASA JPL scientist who, bound by NDA, couldn’t comment.

SpaceX has yet to respond to comment requests, but a scientist from the University of Arizona has confirmed that indeed there’s a Mars landing site-scouting project that began in 2017.

“Under direction from JPL, the HiRISE team has been imaging candidate landing sites for SpaceX. This effort began in 2017, initially for the Red Dragon lander, and is continuing for their Starship vehicle,” Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist, and director of the Planetary Image Research Laboratory told Business Insider.

Read More: Space Rocks Debunk Apollo 11 Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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