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When a Starship has landed on Mars, there is not going to be any kind of prepared platform initially. (That may be a task for early crews to resolve).

Is there the possibility that Starship, sitting flat on the surface, could kick up material on take-off?

Could that material damage the engines just like when SN8's static fire propelled launchpad material into one of the engines causing it to be destroyed?

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Yes. I really wanted to just answer that one word, but it does not quite allow it.

The good news is that the problem they encountered in the SN8 static fire led them to armour some lines that they thought were vulnerable, sooner than expected. This also suggests that the engines themselves may not be too vulnerable, rather it is the control lines (electric, pneumatic, and fluid) that might be most in danger.

Also consider, landing is just as problematic as takeoff, possibly worse, since on takeoff you are leaving the situation. With every passing second you get further and further out of range.

Whereas on landing you are getting closer and closer.

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  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, landing you have two or three engines throttled well down, whereas on take-off you will presumably have all seven at 100%. Although actually it might be possible to take off from Mars with significantly less than that, because the weight is less. Get 10 or 100m up and then light the remaining engines/throttle up to get minimize gravity drag $\endgroup$ – Steve Linton Dec 22 '20 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ For takeoff you can also do something to prepare the ground before leaving. $\endgroup$ – Christopher James Huff Dec 22 '20 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting that the use of auxiliary engines for for final landing and take off, as proposed for lunar starship missions, hasn't even been considered here. $\endgroup$ – ikrase Dec 24 '20 at 13:20

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