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Given a new, unprepared "in the field" landing site for a rocket, what is the SpaceX strategy? Are the landing legs intended to be rated to handle that kind of instability? How can they possibly be?

Is there a plan to prepare a landing site ahead of time, or what? Has this been addressed in the released information?

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    $\begingroup$ Short answer is it has not been addressed beyond the legs will handle it. How? Dunno. They know how to land on a barge. They have a lot of data so far from a lot of landings. Likely they will figure it out. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jan 24 '18 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ I just can't see betting so much on the landing site being suitable. Seems like a robotic site preparation mission would have to be in the offing. $\endgroup$ – Chris B. Behrens Jan 24 '18 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ Chris - Every single landing on another planet to date, (6 Apollo, say a dozen Mars landers/rovers, all Lunar soft landers) has landed this way. So I doubt they will change that. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jan 25 '18 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ Check this video out: youtube.com/watch?v=9SCvenRvUVs. The landing site is obscured (purposely?). The key difference that makes me ask this question is the relatively high center of gravity for the vehicle. This isn't so much an issue for the Dragon capsule, but word seems to be that Musk has ditched that. $\endgroup$ – Chris B. Behrens Jan 25 '18 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ It's not betting anything on the site, with modern orbital telescopes and radar, and the possibility of rovers scouting on the ground even. There's certainly enough flat land on the planet to touch down someplace convenient, it's merely a (large, involved) research project to select the best one. $\endgroup$ – Saiboogu Jan 25 '18 at 2:23
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The plan seems to be to have the first 2 cargo missions carry robots that can make a concrete landing pad. It isn't really sure if that will work out, however, and I suspect that they aren't going to be able to land that accurately.

As far as the initial landings, I'm sure they will get HiRISE observations to look at the landing ellipse, same as every mission since it arrived on Mars, and make sure it looks clear.

I'm pretty sure that the first two cargo BFRs are never coming back to Earth, and if so, not for some time. The improved landing is probably only required if one intends to reuse the spacecraft, also Mars has less gravity then Earth.

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As far as I can tell, the plan is:

  1. Do as much advance scouting as possible using observations from orbit and data from existing landers and rovers. There's a lot than can be done to minimize risk based on that information alone.
  2. Have the first mission or two be unmanned.
  3. Allow for last-minute minor corrections to landing site location to avoid potential boulders and the like.
  4. Use rovers on the unmanned missions to help further refine landing location options for the crewed missions.
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