This Scientific American article looks at how landings on Mars have gotten more and more precise, shrinking the “landing ellipse” from 300 km × 100 km (Viking) to 7.7 km × 6.6 km (Perseverance), which enables landings in places other than wide undifferentiated plains. Some locales will be still be off-limits for some time: “For instance, scientists cannot propose landing on high-altitude features such as Olympus Mons because the atmosphere overhead is too tenuous to sufficiently slow down a spacecraft. Regions with very rough terrain or steep slopes are also off-limits, even with [Terrain Relative Navigation]. Furthermore, features such as polar ice caps, canyons, lava tubes and sand dunes offer poor prospects for wheeled rovers and would require alternate forms of mobility.”
How Mars Landings Became More Accurate
Posted on 19 Feb 2021 by Jonathan Crowe Astronomy & Space
Jonathan Crowe blogs about maps at The Map Room and writes and reviews science fiction and fantasy; his work has been published by AE, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Strange Horizons and Tor.com. He lives in Shawville, Quebec.