Thoughts on selecting a landing site:

Choosing where to have lunch can be hard. Deciding where to go on vacation is hard. Finding a new apartment is hard.   Selecting a landing site on Mars… the hardest!

For this task, we’re faced with choice overload. What characteristics might you consider in selecting a site?  Are you looking for water? Are you looking for moderate temperatures? How about regolith composition?

Lander data and satellite imagery can help us identify some of the site attributes and determine where to set up camp, so to speak. Check out the resources below:

Not quite google maps, but might as well be:

High-Rise imagery from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona: HiRise Imagery

Here’s another resource to help us “explore and irrigate the Martian planet” from ArcGIS:  Irrigate Mars

Getting ones bearings on Mars is often a challenge, especially given the nomenclature used to describe the planet’s geography. Here on earth, we have unmistakable landmarks like the San Francisco bay and the Golden Gate Bridge to aid navigation. On Mars, we only have some topography referenced in Latin…ugh. 
Below you can find a key to some of the descriptors used to categorize the planet’s geography and their English translation.
Where would you land!?


Catena (catenae): chain of craters
Cavus (cavi): hollows, irregular depressions
Chaos (chaoses): distinctive area of broken terrain
Chasma (chasmata): steep-sided depression
Collis (colles): collection of small hills or knobs
Crater (craters): circular depression (impact event)
Davida (bowiae): hidden map element
Dorsum (dorsa): ridge (wrinkle ridge)
Fluctus (fluctūs): terrain covered by outflow of liquid
Fossa (fossae): long, narrow, shallow depression
Labes (labēs): landslide debris
Labyrinthus (labyrinthi): intersecting valleys or ridges
Lingula (lingulae): tongue of land
Mensa (mensae): flat-topped with cliff-like edges
Mons (montes): mountain or mountain range
Palus (paludes): small plain
Patera (paterae): irregular crater with scalloped edges
Planitia (planitiae): low plain
Planum (plana): plateau or high plain
Rupes (rupēs): scarp
Scopulus (scopuli): irregular slope
Serpens (serpentes): sinuous feature with relief
Sulcus (sulci): subparallel furrows and ridges
Terra (terrae): extensive land mass
Tholus (tholi): small domical mountain or hill
Unda (undae): Field of dunes
Vallis (valles): Valley
Vastitas (vastitates): Extensive plain

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