The Elon Musk-owned SpaceX commercial space company has reportedly requested images of potential Mars landing sites from NASA. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRise camera database includes a small group of images defined as “Candidate landing site for SpaceX Starship.” Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation spaceship meant to work within both Earth and lunar orbit and eventually Mars.
SpaceX Starship is progressing through a startlingly rapid development process.
Elon Musk’s company is currently building two orbital prototypes and just completed a successful short jump of its Starhopper prototype to test its Raptor engine.
humanMars.net broke the story with the Tweet: “Images labelled “Candidate Landing Site for SpaceX #Starship in Arcadia Region were found in latest data release from @HiRISE”.
“It means @SpaceX is already quietly evaluating best place where to land first Starships on #Mars.”
The NASA HiRise image database is searchable by anyone.
These SpaceX-related images likely came out in a recent August update.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took the photographs in June and July.
Despite SpaceX remaining years from launching a Mars mission, it has already began reconnoitring potential landing sites.
NASA begins its own evaluations far advance of launching a lander or rover to Mars.
This Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photo is one of a handful labeled as candidate landing sites for the SpaceX Starship.
NASA is currently focused on the moon as a launch for Mars missions, but the space agency has already considered the Red Planet as ripe for for human exploration.
A workshop group in 2015 proposed 47 possible landing spots.
SpaceX’s HiRise images show the private space enterprise is primarily interested in the Arcadia region of Mars, boasting both volcanoes and wide plains.
SpaceX Starship requires a fairly smooth spot free of big rocks to land on.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images show primarily flat areas that look like solid candidates for Starship.
Another focus of NASA’s reconnaissance campaign in Phlegra Montes, a mountainous area just west of Arcadia Planitia in Mars’ northern hemisphere.
Phlegra Montes is thought to hold significant stores of water ice in buried glaciers, but the terrain is more rugged.