Mars: Large Ice Deposits Found

Mars: Large Ice Deposits Found

According to National Geographic "human missions to Mars would likely rely on extracting water from the local environment, either baking it out of hydrated minerals or mining it from ice deposits".

In 2016, a NASA study said ice may yield more water per scoop than minerals, which means the H20 could be more hard to access. However, previous scans using the MRO's Shallow Radar instrument were not enough to determine the extent and make-up of ice on the Red Planet.

"We've found a new window into the ice for study, which we hope will be of interest to those interested in all aspects of ice on Mars and its history, " The Washington Post reported quoting Colin Dundas, a member of the US Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona and an author of a report published Thursday in the journal Science.

Scientists were astonished to discover that Mars' mid-latitudes contained pure water ice.

According to new research, a sizable portion of this water ice is very near the surface, only a few feet below in some places.

These underground cliffs, or scarps, appear "to be almost pure ice", said the report. The discovery points to a vast area of underground ice buried only a meter or two below Martian ground surface. The latitudes were the equivalent on Earth of Scotland or the tip of South America.

No definitive information was provided on how the scarps were formed. It is also possible that layers of snow were compressed every climate cycle, resulting to the building deposits of ice over time.

This exposed ice is slowly sublimating away, turning directly from solid to vapour, because even though temperatures on Mars are well below freezing, the air pressure is too thin for the ice to hold its solid shape.

The varying shades of light to dark blue color of ice as shown on the images, suggest that the thick slabs of ice are stacked.

The discovery is considered a game changer in mankind's exploration of Mars.

Scientists have always believed that a third of Martian surface contains shallow ground ice, but the latest discovery of huge ice sheets in at least eight sites serves is sort of a "game-changer". "You don't see a high-tech solution [.] You can go out with a bucket and shovel and just collect as much water as you need".

However, they are not as treacherous as the poles, and if a sample could be drilled from one of the glaciers, researchers could learn plenty about Mars' climate and the potential for life on earth's neighbouring planet.

NASA plans to send the first human explorers to Mars by the 2030s.

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