SpaceX has reaffirmed its prioritization of the Arcadia Planitia – a low Martian plain – and adjacent areas as some of the most promising locations for early Starship landings, tasking a NASA satellite to gather updated photos of six potential landing sites.

First discovered and analyzed by author Robert Zimmerman on August 28th, SpaceX requested the landing site prospecting images from the University of Arizona, tasked with operating NASA’s JPL-built HiRISE spacecraft. Back before Red Dragon’s 2017 cancellation, SpaceX began the process of landing site analysis, a canvassing that ultimately settled on four possible locations, of which the Arcadia Planitia was viewed as most promising.

After at least 2.5 years of research, SpaceX thus appears to be confidently settling on one particular region of Mars for its first Starship landing(s) on the Red Planet. Located in Mars’ mid-northern latitudes, Arcadia Planitia – like its Latin namesake suggests – is a region of plains, specifically low plains per International Astronomical Union (IAU) standards. It has been described by NASA as “one of the few regions [of Mars] where abundant shallow ice is present at relatively low latitude”, desirable for an array of reasons.

Olympus Mons - Mars Express

Arcadia Planitia takes up much of the left-hand side of this spectacular 2017 panorama, stitched together from Mars Express images by Justin Cowart. On the scale of Martian spectacle, one could be forgiven for perceiving Arcadia as boring. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons SpaceX is interested

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