Science

Big Sheets of Water Ice Lie Just Beneath the Surface of Mars

Big Sheets of Water Ice Lie Just Beneath the Surface of Mars

Mars has ice sheets more than 100 meters deep hiding beneath its red dust, offering a potential water source for future explorers of the Red Planet, according to new research. Most of this precious liquid escaped into space, but some of it stayed behind, transforming into ice and settling beneath the rocky surface. 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.

Aside from potentially aiding in human exploration of Mars, the newly-mapped ice sheets could also unlock secrets hidden in Mars' past.

"On Mars, when you see something bright, it usually means ice", says Richard Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was unaffiliated with the study. The space agency says the MRO found a total of eight locations where these thick ice layers are exposed, all of them on eroding slope faces. The "all we need in a bucket" scenario is therefore rather optimistic, as we don't know the density of Martian ice or whether it will need purification before consumption. Dundas and his colleagues hypothesize that the ice originated as snow, falling in waves over millions of years.

"There've been suggestions that, when there's high obliquity, the poles get heated a lot - they're tilted over and pointed more at the sun, and so that redistributes ice toward the midlatitudes", Dundas said.

Now, don't pack your bags for Mars just yet.

The sites are in both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at latitudes from about 55 to 58 degrees, equivalent on Earth to Scotland or the tip of South America. All these things indicate that Mars was a watery planet in its initial phase and now it has become a dry and icy planet.

Scientists now want to seek out similar cliffs closer to the equator, hoping that the next surprise awaiting them is the discovery of ice nearer to the tropics.

The Scandal Brewing Over Queen Elizabeth's Bra Fitter
While the company has held the United Kingdom royal warrant since 1960, she only took over the role in the 1980s. She was surprised at the response as, in her mind, "The book doesn't contain anything naughty".

"I was surprised to find such good, large exposures", Dundas said.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover is equipped with a ground-penetrating radar that could allow it to probe the mysterious upper layers of the planet's surface.

Another option: artificial meteors.

Scientists have been making claims over finding signs of life on Mars for quite some time now.

Using data from satellites and rovers that have been rumbling across the surface of the Red Planet, planetary astronomers believe that Mars was once a wet planet, with an ocean and rivers some 4.3-billion years ago.

Optimistic timelines put our arrival on the Red Planet some time during the 2030s.

Scientists now have their work cut out for them.


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