Author Topic: Mars HSF landing sites?  (Read 17143 times)

Offline KelvinZero

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Mars HSF landing sites?
« on: 05/25/2015 07:36 am »
This forum often has generic discussions about where we should land, ie near a glacier, near the equator or so on. We know quite a bit about mars by now. I was thinking it would be good to discuss more specific candidate sites.

I think this would also form a very good introduction to specific mars places of interest to a layman like me.

The HEM-SAG report ( http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/reports/HEM-SAG_final_draft_4_v2-2.doc )  suggested landing at the foot of Arsia Mons, at Jezero crater, Mangala Vellis and Centauri Montes, all amazing science sites.   Check out their reasons and strategy.  Prefer settlement over exploration?  Then aim for resources even if ISRU is not feasible in the near to mid term.




The idea for this thread came from another where it was a bit off topic:

This seems to show a spot with more water around the equator. Does anyone know what it is called and why it is higher in water? (The caption says something about hydrogen measured in the top meter of soil)

water in lower latitudes?

I also thought it would be interesting to start a thread purely on landing sites for HSF.

It's a bit east of Opportinuty's area.  The giant crater closest to the center was Schiaparelli Crater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schiaparelli_%28Martian_crater%29.  I actually looked over that same map while gaguing what regions of Mars would have decent hydrogen (i.e. water) rich regolith.  That crater has some layered terrain and is one of the larger craters outside of Argye and Hellas.  I'd be tempted to suggest that for a base site but aside from the layering and hydrogen-richness I'm honestly unsure how it ranks.  Anything that would be green or better should be targeted for resources, and fortunately that looks like about half the planet, even excluding the poles.

(edit) and here is a link on google mars:
http://www.google.com/mars/#lon=-27.860546&q=Schiaparelli
« Last Edit: 05/27/2015 10:42 pm by KelvinZero »

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #1 on: 05/25/2015 08:43 am »
Good to see to you took my advice about a fresh thread.  8)

I'll put in my two cents...

I think there'll be a convergence of points a future committee will argue about when picking a site for human exploration:
1) Accessibility from orbit
2) Accessibility to local resources
3) Photogenic science (at least half for P.R. and half for actual research)
4) Minimizing contamination

For example, the resource people would point straight at the glaciers and poles (and would get some support from the science folks) and say "that's what we need!"  However, the engineers designing approach and EDL would hate wasting fuel just to crank inclination up high and the anti-contamination folk would want to avoid 'special areas' (which I think translates to areas where there could be active water and a hypothetical active Martian biosphere).  Both have some good points in their arguments, but it might end in a stalemate that results in a de facto "no landing at icy sites".

As far where specifically they should send humans (and likely a base), I would have to say ultimately it would be someplace photogenic.  As to why that, out of the 4 factors I previously mentioned, might end up becoming precedent is simple: PR.  If they want the public to stay interested and their congressmen (and President even) to shell out funds, seeing something wondrous like jagged craters, a mysterious riverbed, a vast canyon...something to look at as opposed to a blank slate of a flat plain.  The general public will, frankly, care little if a buried ice patch could provide eons of living means for a future city in the middle of a peaceful flat planum.

Landing in the heart of Valles Marineris would be a prime example I'd suggest.  There's science and even a sense of romance in exploring a new not just grand, but titanic canyon.  Only climbing to Olympus Mons' summit would top interest ratings, but that would be a feat even riskier with current means.

I'm pretty confident there is a huge number of inspiring places to land, and even revisiting Gusev or Gale Craters may make the list.  But if we're talking the future and a desire to keep enduring interest, they'll need to take some risk; there will be some kind of autonomous preparation sent ahead anyway, at the least in the form of a crate of oxygen tanks and freeze-dried tang.
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Offline redliox

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #2 on: 05/25/2015 09:15 am »
Here's a run-down on why an older site like Gusev Crater may be worthwhile to revisit and establish a base at...

Within the same region of Mars as Gusev, there are three notable channel formations (one being Ma'adim that feeds directly into Gusev [but wasn't directly visited by Spirit itself mind you]), three volcanic formations with the largest, Apollinaris Mons, being essentially a mini-Tharis-style volcano in more accessible terrain; in addiiton, there are dozens of other craters with Gusev's large westerly neighbor, de Vaucouleurs, being essentially a larger version of Gusev itself.

If there's to be a long-term strategy, a region where the same rover expedition with a range of ~200 kilometers from base can encounter volcanoes, craters, lakebeds, and riverbeds at once makes for a geologist's grand road trip.
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Offline sanman

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #3 on: 05/26/2015 01:18 am »
Good to see to you took my advice about a fresh thread.  8)

I'll put in my two cents...

I think there'll be a convergence of points a future committee will argue about when picking a site for human exploration:
1) Accessibility from orbit
2) Accessibility to local resources
3) Photogenic science (at least half for P.R. and half for actual research)
4) Minimizing contamination


What about
5) Best place to find life

For example, the deepest parts of Hellas Basin have been speculated to possibly be able to support triple-point of water. Although personally I feel that the deepest underground caves are the best possible candidates to support life, since the Martian crust is very thick, varying from 31km to 125km in thickness. Imagine the ambient pressure when you get down that deep!

Another thing to consider is the Martian Dichotomy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_dichotomy
« Last Edit: 05/26/2015 01:41 am by sanman »

Offline scienceguy

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #4 on: 05/26/2015 04:23 am »
Pavonis mons is on the equator and a good place to eventually put a space elevator (eventually? We have the materials to build a space elevator on Mars now!).
e^(pi*i) = -1

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #5 on: 05/26/2015 01:32 pm »
Pursuing my own radical agenda: Korolev crater.

(This is not a location I would seriously push, It just makes a pet idea of mine straightforward to implement)

(1) http://www.google.com/mars/#lat=71.784418&lon=-166.262885&q=Korolev
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korolev_(Martian_crater)
(3) http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2014/pdf/2536.pdf
(4) http://www.planetary.brown.edu/planetary/documents/Micro_36/Abstracts/031_Head_etal.pdf

quote from 3:
Korolev crater is a water ice-filled, ~80 km diameter, impact crater located at 73o N, 163o E on Mars. Given its location over 600 km south of the modern ice cap's edge (Fig. 1), this crater is unusual because of the domal deposit of H2O ice [1]. Mapping efforts using SHAllow RADar (SHARAD) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed the deposit's thickness to be at least 2 km

Because the latitude is 73 degrees, and mars has an axial tilt around 25 degrees I guess it would get solar power for much of the year. The crater rim facing the equator could be a good location for solar panels due to it facing the sun, and by placing panels on a slope they should mostly keep themselves free of buildup.

Initially my pet plan is robotic landers with nuclear power plants, similar but easier than the europa ocean probe schemes. You only need to melt down 30 meters and then let the reactor sit there melting more ice with its waste heat. A list of other advantages:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33069.msg1109011#msg1109011

Despite the dome shape, I imagine we could find a flat 'shore' of ice at the edge nearest the equator. This would be well placed for future solar power on the crater rim. Another possibility is the edge furthest from the equator. This probably has a bit less access to sun year round but the sun-facing crater slope would be nearer the ice.

---
Alternatively there is Louth Crater, at a slightly better latitude.

The ice patch is smaller but that is hardly an issue in the short term. The shape might make it easier to find a spot with reasonable solar power and ice of around 30m depth over useful ore.
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap050720.html
The ice pocket was found in a 35-kilometer wide crater that resides 70 degrees north of the Martian equator. There, sunlight is blocked by the 300-meter tall crater wall from vaporizing the water-ice on the crater floor into the thin Martian atmosphere. The ice pocket may be as deep as 200 meters thick. Frost can be seen around the inner edge on the upper right part of the crater, while part of the lower left crater wall is bathed in sunlight.

http://abrown.seti.org/publications/papers/Brown_et_al_2008_Louth_crater-Icarus.pdf
Taking the ice mound to be a section of a sphere that is 12 km across and 200 m deep, the water ice mound deposit is roughly 11 km3 in volume
« Last Edit: 05/27/2015 11:42 am by KelvinZero »

Offline sghill

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #6 on: 05/27/2015 06:13 pm »
Good to see to you took my advice about a fresh thread.  8)

I'll put in my two cents...

I think there'll be a convergence of points a future committee will argue about when picking a site for human exploration:
1) Accessibility from orbit
2) Accessibility to local resources
3) Photogenic science (at least half for P.R. and half for actual research)
4) Minimizing contamination

Good two cents!  The only considerations I'd add are  5) Possibility of life (Sanman posted this first) and 6) Diversity of resources.

i.e., land someplace with lots of interesting things to see and study.  I happen to think the wash out area near the exit from Valles Marineris would be an amazing place for exploration and mining.  Nature has dug deep here starting at the feet of volcanoes, and there may literally be gold and other metals laying about the surface if the area interacted with water over time.  Also, from a geologist's and exo-biologist's standpoint, the area, while rough, will have a treasure trove of different types of rocks from different points in Mar's history all in one confined space to sift through...

« Last Edit: 05/27/2015 06:15 pm by sghill »
Bring the thunder!

Offline Russel

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #7 on: 05/27/2015 10:06 pm »
Now, why does that beautiful picture of Olympus Mons make me feel like I want to pick at a scab/pimple? :)

The other thing about Olympus Mons is that from the point of view of landing propulsively its a great choice. There's less distance to fall basically. I'm not sure what the science case is for being up there. And if you've got a decent lander/ascent vehicle you've also got a mountain hopper.

One thing I would like to add to this conversation is that we're simply going to have to get better at long distance manned rovers. There are too many sites worth looking at and a lot of the ones worth looking at are just too rough to risk a landing on. I don't care how pinpoint the technology is, I'd still aim for a bit of flat ground.

I think we also have to come to terms with a manned landing working hand in hand with a simultaneous robotic exploration at a number of sites.

Online Phil Stooke

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #8 on: 05/27/2015 10:21 pm »
Unfortunately, the science case for being on top of Olympus Mons is pretty much zero.  And since so many other, more interesting, sites would be passed over, it's probably negative rather than zero.

The HEM-SAG report ( http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/reports/HEM-SAG_final_draft_4_v2-2.doc )  suggested landing at the foot of Arsia Mons, at Jezero crater, Mangala Vellis and Centauri Montes, all amazing science sites.   Check out their reasons and strategy.  Prefer settlement over exploration?  Then aim for resources even if ISRU is not feasible in the near to mid term.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #9 on: 05/27/2015 10:45 pm »
@Phil Stooke: I edited that into the OP since it is clearly an excellent starting point.

(I wish forum threads created a 'references' page of external links and posts that referenced them. After a thread grows to any size you can never find anything in it.)
« Last Edit: 05/27/2015 10:53 pm by KelvinZero »

Offline Seer

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #10 on: 05/27/2015 11:50 pm »
Given the immense difficulty and cost of an expedition to mars, the prime consideration for a lancing site is: does it help in making such a mission become possible in the first place? A low altitude landing site is very helpful from that point of view.
In the DRM 5.0 document there is a cost constrained mission that only has 4 astronauts and more limited surface capabilities. The big advantage of that approach is that you only need 7 heavy lift launch vehicles - 170 tonnes leo payload class - and don't have nuclear thermal engines. Still SLS won't have that capacity, its only 130 tonnes, but upgrade paths to 150 tonnes aren't that difficult, you can use liquid boosters for instance. And a 150 tonne HLV will be sufficient if you land at low altitude due to the longer deceleration phase during entry into the atmosphere. So you've already reduced the time and expense in developing the required HLV if you go down that route.

Once you on mars a low altitude means less radiation and less micrometeoroid flux. This is important since you have an fairly fragile mars ascent vehicle on the surface of mars for over two years after the astronauts launch from Earth.

By low altitude I mean really as low as possible so only two choices really: bottom of Hellas basin or Valles Marineris. I think the latter site is good enough from a scientific point of view anyway and it would certainly be the most spectacular site from an aesthetic perspective.


Offline Russel

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #11 on: 05/28/2015 07:26 am »
If I may interject. A fully propulsive crew landing isn't constrained to a low altitude. Of course a low altitude would be an advantage to heavy cargo landings. That's maybe an opportunity.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #12 on: 05/28/2015 09:31 am »
Ice Domes on Mars? :o
Don't skate near the edge ;)

btw what crater was that?
« Last Edit: 05/28/2015 09:32 am by KelvinZero »

Offline guckyfan

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #13 on: 05/28/2015 10:03 am »
If I may interject. A fully propulsive crew landing isn't constrained to a low altitude. Of course a low altitude would be an advantage to heavy cargo landings. That's maybe an opportunity.

There won't be fully propulsive landing until there is some direct fusion drive.

Offline guckyfan

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #14 on: 05/28/2015 01:36 pm »
There won't be fully propulsive landing until there is some direct fusion drive.

You'd better tell Elon that.

He is not planning full propulsive landing. He is planning to shed about 90% of the speed by aerobraking. And with that a landing in a low lying area is very helpful. Full propulsive would be braking all speed with propulsion. In that case the altitude would not matter.

Offline Ionmars

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #15 on: 05/28/2015 04:46 pm »
KelvinZero, as an advocate if colonization, I try to think like SpaceX. IMHO this means an initial base for the exploration of Mars that will grow into a base for colonization, which will then grow into one of a series of towns around the planet. The choice of initial HSF landing site should help achieve the long-range goals. I like your opening paragraph but I might rearrange priorities as follows:

(1)   A good landing site that can be easily developed into a landing and launch site.
    (a) We are exploring the requirements for such a site in the thread A Mars Launchpad for MCT. Apparently the initial landings will require a vehicle with canted engines like Dragon 2, but a large vehicle like MCT will require a prepared landing pad.
    (b) Low altitude with a denser atmosphere to facilitate aero-entry plus propulsive landings.
    (c) Low latitude to facilitate landings, i.e. better orbital mechanics.
    (d) Good local terrain feature (a small crater) to be exploited for landing and launching. The crater will contain the L/L pads and will constrain flying FOD. The crater rim will provide natural protection for equipment.
    (d) Relatively flat area around the landing zone.
(2) A large source of water:
    (a) a glacier that is largely  above the local elevation, or
    (b) a buried source that is close enough to the surface to be exploited.
(3) A denser atmosphere will also facilitate the production of O2, CH4 and other atmosphere-derived products.

The site will initially be established to ensure the survival of humans and to accumulate the equipment required for their continued survival.  At first, proximity to features of scientific interest would not be a primary motive. But once the necessities of survival are assured, then the site can be the base for scientific forays using rovers. Later, it can be the base for planet-wide forays using hoppers.

A moderate latitude will facilitate the use of solar arrays.

As far as habitats are concerned, there are a large variety of proposals for habitats that can utilize local ISRU, so I now believe that presence or lack of local ISRU resources is not a limiting factor.

The site will not be a public relations stunt. This idea is repugnant to serious backers of exploration or colonization. Keep our motives pure and sponsorship will fall into place.

I am not an expert on the geology of Mars, but the site near Valles Marineras recommended by sghill in Reply #9 above seems to meet these requirements rather well.
« Last Edit: 05/28/2015 08:51 pm by Ionmars »
Could a Mars pole-vaulter set a new record? Not in a space suit. (smiley)

Offline Alexsander

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #16 on: 05/28/2015 06:18 pm »
What about lava tubes?

Offline philw1776

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #17 on: 05/28/2015 06:54 pm »
I missed where we tried colonization.  When & where was this?
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Offline Ionmars

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #18 on: 05/28/2015 08:49 pm »
...
...
...
On closer inspection, it turns out that spot I pointed out- Eos Chasma- was considered as a MSL landing site for the same reasons I mentioned!

The close-up photo of Eos Chasma that you provided to us actually caused me concern rather than encouragement. I had no idea that the area was so rugged - the opposite of a good landing site. Is there not a nearby location that is relatively flat with a small crater?  This picture is scientifically interesting but not a good site for a base.

This image of East Eos Chasma is more what I had in mind:

« Last Edit: 05/29/2015 12:21 pm by Ionmars »
Could a Mars pole-vaulter set a new record? Not in a space suit. (smiley)

Offline Alexsander

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Re: Mars HSF landing sites?
« Reply #19 on: 05/28/2015 09:27 pm »
« Last Edit: 05/28/2015 09:28 pm by Alexsander »

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