New Delhi: SpaceX said it is working with NASA scientists to identify landing spots on Mars for its Red Dragon spacecraft.
Elon Musk, who founded the US-based aerospace company in 2002, wants to send rovers and experiments to the Red Planet starting in 2018.
"We are working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, have identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising," SpaceNews quoted SpaceX's Paul Wooster as saying.
Wooster oversees Dragon spacecraft guidance, navigation and control systems and also works on the company's higher-level Mars plans.
According to Wooster, the site selection is based on several criteria like access to large quantities of ice near the surface that could, ultimately, support human settlements.
"Another is to be close to the Equator and at a low elevation for solar power and better thermal conditions. It's probably hard to find that along with ice. So, the focus has been on four locations at latitudes no more than about 40 degrees from the Equator," Wooster noted.
The study has identified four regions in the northern hemisphere of Mars for landing.
The Red Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying about one ton of payload to Mars.
"SpaceX is a transportation company. We transport cargo to the space station, we deliver payloads to orbit, so we're very happy to deliver payloads to Mars," Wooster said.
The first launch of the Red Dragon programme is likely to take place in mid-2020 using Falcon Heavy rockets, finally followed by Elon Musk's 'interplanetary transport system' that would take humans to Mars in just 80 days.
(With IANS inputs)