After atmospheric reentry, a non-powered spacecraft will land on an area depending upon entry angle, entry mass, atmosphere and drag. It is therefore impossible to know the spacecraft's landing point with absolute precision. By simulating varying reentry courses, a numerical simulation will produce a plot resembling a footprint.
Another name for landing footprint is landing ellipse.
- A Passive Earth-Entry Capsule for Mars Sample Return[permanent dead link]
- The Planetary Society Blog, Landing ellipses
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