March 21, 2018

Huge reserves of water ice discovered on Mars

12 January 2018, 02:58 | Lucia Cruz

Mars captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Space Telescope Science Institute

Mars captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.                  Space Telescope Science Institute

Should this discovery be confirmed, it bodes well for future missions to the Red Planet.

Huge ice sheets more than 300 feet deep have been discovered on Mars, making it possible that human astronauts could have access to nearly limitless water, scientists said Thursday.

In 2011, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back images of odd dark streaks on some slopes of Mars, news that reverberated throughout the scientific community, many members of which postulated that the geological feature could be a sign of flowing water.

Most of the material on Mars reflects little light, "but the albedo readings on these exposed sections show that this is very bright stuff", he says. Most of this precious liquid escaped into space, but some of it stayed behind, transforming into ice and settling beneath the rocky surface.

Those recently identified layers recommend that the ice was set down over some stretch of time, through a procedure that happened more than once.

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More immediately, mapping ice deposits is useful in... The snowfall could have occurred as of late as a huge number of years prior, Dundas says.

"That preserved record would be of extreme importance to go back to", G. Scott Hubbard, a space scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California told Science.

Geologist Colin Dundas initially made the discovery, when he spotted blue lines on aerial photos of the Martian surface taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

But before you start packing your bags and preparing for your new life as a Martian, there's one major problem: All eight sites that are suspected of having clean water ice are located about 55 degrees north or south of Mars' equator, where temperatures are incredibly low. Radar studies of the subsurface have found features that have been interpreted as dust and rock covered glaciers and some indications of ice sheets in other areas of the Red Planet. New research shows that a sizable portion of this water ice is surprisingly near the surface - in some cases just a few feet down. Of particular interest to ISRU planners is the depth of the ice, and the ratio of pure ice to that mixed in with bits of Mars regolith. The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there. Such locales are nasty places in winter but less nasty than Mars' super-frigid polar regions, so could perhaps be accessible from the kind of locales humans could set up presences on Mars.

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