Robert Zimmerman - the person behind the 'Behind the Black' space blog, not the one who's Bob Dylan - recently discovered several images online labeled as "candidate landing site for SpaceX Starship."
The data release comes from the University of Arizona's HiRISE camera, which is aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
It seems that SpaceX is pinpointing the exact location where its Starship is set to land the first humans on Mars.
Ideal landing locations
While the images, which were found on the University of Arizona's website, weren't data-mined, they were released with little fanfare, despite the fact that they show the potential location of what is set to be a historical event of enormous proportions.
What the images show is that, with NASA's help, SpaceX is quietly deciding on the ideal location for their Starship Mars mission landing site.
As Zimmerman points out, there are several reasons why SpaceX might favor the assigned region, which falls on the border between the two large northern lowland plains - Arcadia and Amazonis Planitia.
Images labelled "Candidate Landing Site for SpaceX #Starship in Arcadia Region" were found in latest data release from @HiRISE. It means @SpaceX is already quietly evaluating best place where to land first Starships on #Mars. We made a map of those sites: https://t.co/fejyWhEtzPpic.twitter.com/wV3ACDbJZx— human Mars 🔴 (@human_Mars) September 1, 2019
Firstly, there is strong evidence that the area is home to buried glaciers called lobate debris aprons (LDA). Site 1's location is in a hilly area called Erebus Montes, which is believed to be filled with these kinds of glaciers. Ice, of course, means water, and a valuable resource for future space explorers.
On top of this, all of the locations are roughly 40 degrees latitude, meaning their climate will be relatively mild, for Mars. Site 5, meanwhile, is located in a very flat zone, meaning it would provide an ideal, safe landing location.
Starhopper, the prototype that will eventually become the Mars-bound Starship spacecraft, recently completed a successful 500 feet test flight.