Each potential landing site is a place where frozen water can be hidden under a small amount of Martian soil and is thus accessible to robots and humans. Theoretically, this ice could be mined, melted, and turned into water, air, and rocket fuel.
“To put it mildly, it was very unexpected to discover that SpaceX was starting to explore a place where it could land a ship on Mars,” Zimmerman wrote, adding that every place was a likely place to search for ice.
New images were obtained from the HiRISE telescope, which belongs to the University of Arizona and is installed on the MRO spacecraft. His camera can photograph surface features with a resolution of up to 0.3 meters per pixel. This is three times the resolution that Google Maps satellites provide when capturing the Earth’s surface. But the speed of data transmission of the telescope to Earth is limited, so scientists must submit applications for images for places of interest in a few months.
In the HiRISE catalog, Zimmerman found four landing sites at the request of Starship. Later, journalists found five more locations in the database.
Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist and director of the Planet Imaging Laboratory, confirmed the existence of the project.
“Under JPL's leadership, the HiRISE team created images of potential landing sites for SpaceX. These efforts began in 2017, initially for the Red Dragon ship, and continue for their Starship ship, ”McEwen said in an interview.
According to McEwan, the landing sites "are concentrated at low altitudes in the northern mid-latitudes, in places where there are signs of fine ground ice.
At this stage, SpaceX has not completed a spaceship capable of reaching orbit and landing on Mars. The company also did not explain how it plans to mine ice, create permanent habitats, or simply support the lives of people during a flight to Mars.