Tuesday, March 2, 2021

SpaceX has downselected 7 potential Mars landing sites for Starship

On September 2019 it was revealed SpaceX has selected several Starship candidate landing sites on Mars. The candidate sites were located in Southern Arcadia Planitia East of Erebus Montes and one in Phlegra Montes.

Since then SpaceX has conducted several workshops with the Mars science community to evaluate and narrow the list of candidate landing sites. All the sites must fit several criteria:
  1. close to significant deposits of water/ice, a required resource for in situ propellant production and a consumable to support habitation;
  2. elevation below -2 km (with respect to the MOLA geoid) that can support the delivery of large payloads, with -3 km preferred;
  3. latitude must be <40° for solar power and thermal management, and closer to the equator is desirable;
  4. multiple separate landing locations spaced within a few km of each other, to support the multiple missions needed to grow an outpost;
  5. slopes should be <5° over a 10 m length scale and the chance of impacting a rock greater than 0.5 m high (1 m diameter) should be <5%;
  6. landing site must be radar reflective to enable measurement of the distance to the surface, and it must be load bearing to support the spacecraft at touchdown.

Recently an abstract with the conclusions has been published (the results of the study will be presented in two weeks, at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference), pointing out 4 prime and 3 secondary potential Starship landing sites selected for further study and located in Phlegra Montes, Erebus Montes and Southern Arcadia Planitia:
  • PM-1 has the lowest latitude and elevation of the Phlegra Montes sites, a clear association with LDAs (local ice deposits expressed as lobate debris aprons), well developed polygons (one of the indicators of ice-related morphologies), and has the highest SWIM (Subsurface Water Ice Mapping) score for geomorphic indicators of ice;
  • AP-1 (Arcadia Planitia) appears to be one of the safest sites and has a moderate combined SWIM score for ice;
  • AP-9 has the thickest ice from radar returns (of the Arcadia Planitia sites) and geomorphology indicating shallow ice. It has the highest combined SWIM score for ice, but appears slightly rocky and rough;
  • EM-16 has a clear association with an LDA with nearby brain terrain and the strongest radar return for shallow ice and the highest combined SWIM score of the Erebus Montes sites;
  • AP-8 (Arcadia Planitia) appears to be one of the safest sites and has the highest neutron and combined SWIM scores for ice;
  • EM-15 (Erebus Montes) is associated with a prominent but less extensive LDA, has well developed polygons, nearby brain terrain and appears smooth;
  • PM-7 is adjacent to lineated valley fill (attributed to glacial flow) and appears to be the safest of the Phlegra sites.

We highlighted selected ★ prime and ★ secondary sites on the map:
7 potential sites for SpaceX Starship Mars landing
Mars heightmap (180° in center)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Landing site of Perseverance Mars 2020 rover

On February 18th NASA successfully landed its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on Mars in Jezero Crater (Western Isidis Planitia). As you may wonder where it is, we placed Perseverance's landing location on the map of Mars by National Geographic Society:

Perseverance Mars 2020 rover landing location
Open link in new tab to view the map in full resolution.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has created an animated flyover of the Martian surface explaining why Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide ancient lake-delta system, is the best place for Perseverance to find and collect promising samples for a possible future return to Earth. The animation also reveals the route Perseverance will travel in the first years after landing:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landing in infographics

Tomorrow, on February 18, NASA will land its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on Mars in Jezero Crater (Western Isidis Planitia). Its mission is to collect samples for later retrieval and it is accompanied by a small reconnaissance drone-helicopter Ingenuity - the first such craft on Mars. We will be able to watch NASA's broadcast of the landing here (starting on 19:15 UTC).

Here is an excellent infographic of Perseverance's landing sequence by Australian space illustrator Tony Bela:
NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landing sequence infographic by Tony Bela
Open link in new tab to view the infographic in its original resolution.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Spaceport on Phobos by Thomas Peters

Picture of the Day 12/02/2021 - Spaceport on Phobos, the closest of two natural Martian moons, by graphic designer and illustrator Thomas Peters (Drell-7). More of his space art here.

Spaceport on Phobos by Thomas Peters (Drell-7)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Family watching news on terraformed Mars

Family watching news in their room at a human colony on partially terraformed Mars - a concept artwork by Portuguese fantasy artist Tiago da Silva (Grafik) created for upcoming computer game Terraformers. It is a Mars colonization strategy game currently being developed by indie game developer Asteroid Lab.

Note the news ticker below the main story in TV displaying: Carl Sagan National Museum opens new exhibit, "The first missions - Elon Musk" :)

Family watching news on terraformed Mars by Tiago da Silva for Terraformers game

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Animation of SpaceX Starship interior concept by DeepSpaceCourier

Two brothers from DeepSpaceCourier have created an animation of their concept for SpaceX's Starship interior. The animation takes through each level of the Starship showing it from 1st person perspective.

Common room:
SpaceX's Starship interior concept by DeepSpaceCourier - Common room
SpaceX's Starship interior concept by DeepSpaceCourier - Utilities

Friday, January 15, 2021

Steel factory on Mars by Dmitrii Ustinov

Picture of the Day 15/01/2021 - Mars is about twice as rich in iron as Earth is; in fact its distinctive red color is due to iron oxides on its surface. So making steel shouldn't be a problem. Here is an artwork of a steel factory (mill) on Mars producing raw steel blocks by Russian artist Dmitrii Ustinov. More of his art here.

Steel factory on Mars by Dmitrii Ustinov