NASA helping SpaceX find Mars landing sites

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera database Includes a small group of images labeled “candidate landing site for SpaceX starship”

That camera is operated by the University of Arizona.

The images indicate SpaceX is mainly interested in the “Arcadia” region of Mars, which has both volcanoes and large open plains. A HiRISE principal investigator said those images also show mostly flat area in places where there is evidence for shallow ground ice.

The images are requests made through NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an effort that began in 2017, initially for SpaceX’s “Red Dragon Lander.” Those efforts continue for its replacement: “Starship.”

It was just a week ago that SpaceX conducted a test launch of the “Hopper” – a subscale version of the starship’s propulsion system. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the company’s aspirational goal is to launch an initial cargo mission to Mars in 2022 and then a crewed flight as early as 2024. Musk tweeted the two-stage rocket ship is being developed to land 150 tons and 100 people at a time on Mars.

The scouted sites are also distant from the frigid polar caps of mars and are a bit warmer, seeing more sun.

Musk is planning to give an update on SpaceX’s latest design and plans for starship on September 28.

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