I am currently working on a research project regarding the distribution of Calcium Perchlorate on the surface of Mars' effect on the human body, and for this I would like to look at the concentrations at potential human landing zones.

Are there any potential Mars landing sites/zones that have been/are currently being studied for a crewed mission specifically? If there are any sources for the studies, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for any input!

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    $\begingroup$ It might be too early to study a crewed landing site several decades in advance. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


Back in 2015 NASA conducted a multi-day workshop to identify and discuss candidate locations where humans could land, live and work on the surface of Mars. According to this link approximately 175 people – including scientists, engineers, technologists, industry representatives and the press – attended the Workshop in person.

Several candidate exploration zones (EZs) were identified and discussed during this workshop. The presentations and findings from the workshop are documented here.

Hopefully this can serve as a reasonable reference for your study!

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More recently there has been some data published by MRO HiRISE that has lead some to speculate JPL and SpaceX are collaborating to explore possible landing sites for Starship. I don't think there is any official confirmation of these, but you can find a link to an article on this here.

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    $\begingroup$ It's a matter of public record that HiRISE has taken images for SpaceX for potential landing sites, first for Red Dragon and more recently for Starship. The titles of the images reflect this. That's pretty much official. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto, perhaps what is not public is the exact criteria used by SpaceX to shortlist the number of potential sites. Not as public for example as the process leading to the selection of the landing site for Perseverance. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @NgPh I agree with that for sure, but it is fair to said that human landing sites on Mars have been studied, just not in a public forum. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 15:32

The only real effort is for SpaceX's Starship, where HiRISE has taken a total of 18 released images for candidate landing sites, mostly in the Arcadia Planitia region.

In general, however, there have been quite a few studies that have been done for generalized landing sites on Mars, but quite a bit of it depends on the exact mission planned. Specifically, the duration and ISRU requirements are needed before one can really assess too much. Starship is planning on a long duration mission with IRSU requirements, which tends to be about 40 degrees North. Alternative mission architectures may allow for a larger region to be looked at.

Of some note, 40 degrees north latitude is often sited as a good latitude for a number of reasons. First of all, there is reasonable sunlight year round. There is more ice the more towards the poles one goes, and 40 degrees has enough to be useful for use of the astronauts or for ISRU purposes, manufacturing Methane or Hydrogen for rocket fuel. Lastly, the Northern Hemisphere is preferred because it has more atmospheric pressure because of its lower altitude, making the landing easier.

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    $\begingroup$ @NgPh, it's a strong candidate for underground ice. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ @NgPh Evidence of water ice has been seen all the way from the poles to the equator, but the mid-latitudes combine large quantities of it with reasonable day/night periods and lots of flat terrain. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ @NgPh For a system reliant on methalox ISRU, water ice is an absolute requirement. So is having sufficient power to mine that ice and produce propellant from it, not freezing to death and being buried by CO2 ice in a months-long polar winter night, and finding terrain flat enough to actually land on. These requirements rule out the poles. They don't rule out the equator, but the mid-latitudes have more viable locations. Nothing "dictates 40° N", but the mid latitudes are the best place to look for good sites. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ 40 degrees north is kind of the sweet spot of 3 factors, daylight, water accessibility, and ease of landing. I've seen some research from NASA scientists on this in the form of the Humans to Mars Summit 2019, but I don't have an exact reference. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Mars doesn't have soil, it has regolith. You will have to build soil, removing excess salts and adding organic material, or you're effectively doing hydroponics which will need more than water. Either way, you will need to start with suitable material, just like you do on Earth. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 13:36

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