Given the risk and complication of sending humans to Mars, why not pick a spot where a robot has been?
Astronauts should roam in the most-explored area of Mars, the Meridiani Planum, argue several researchers in an article published by the journal Acta Astronautica. The rover Opportunity has driven over that terrain for more than 13 years and they say a location in the southern part of the zone is ideal for human exploration.
"Meridiani Planum is a good exploration site," lead author Jon Clarke, president of the Mars Society Australia, said in an e-mail. An expert in carbonate sedimentology and paleoecology, Clarke researches both analogs to Mars exploration and good places to explore on Mars.
"It's safe, with large, smooth, and flat areas for landing sites and for setting up a station, and easily drivable surfaces," he said. "We have good information already from the Opportunity rover, which has ranged for over [28 miles] across the area."
The rover has found abundant evidence of ancient water in the area both from rock formations and rock composition. It's just one of many points on Mars that NASA is studying to learn more about potentially habitable environments.