Large Amounts of Water Ice Found Beneath Mars' Surface
Large Amounts of Water Ice Found Beneath Mars' Surface
NASA Mars orbiter finds thick layers of exposed water ice on Martian slopes
12 January, 2018, 16:03
Mars clearly had a watery past, and it's expected that much of the water is still on the planet. In 2008, researchers even captured a full-scale avalanche on Mars as it plunged down a 2,300-foot slope into a valley. Beneath one such large slope, an ice sheet is present that is nearly 330 feet (100 meters) thick and this result in the blue-black hue of the lands space.
Researchers discovered massive ice sheets in the planet's mid-latitudes that are believed to extend up to 100 meters deep and contain distinguishable layers that, "could preserve a record of Mars' past climate", the report says.
Although scientists knew ice existed on Mars, the new discovery shows just how much of it there is and how accessible it is for astronauts. The water could be used for drinking and potentially conversion into oxygen to breathe.
The research, which was funded by NASA, was conducted by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory along with the U.S. Geological Survey, the nonprofit Planetary Science Institute, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas.
Using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has studied the Martian atmosphere and terrain since 2006, researchers found eight of these geological features called scraps, and saw that they also had very distinct layers which could offer clues about Mars' past climate.
In 2011, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back images of unusual 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.
More immediately, mapping ice deposits is useful in...
There are plans to get humans to Mars by the 2030s. As the ice deposits are covered by just a few feet of Martian dirt, this could possibly allow future astronomers who travel to Mars to access those ice sheets.
"There has been discussion by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group. and others in the community of using ice as a resource", lead author and planetary scientist Colin Dundas, said via email. Evidently the near-surface ice and the large subsurface deposits are one and the same, says Ali Bramson, a co-author and graduate student at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "We'd seen ice exposed by the craters. but finding such clean exposures that weren't disrupted by an impact was quite surprising".
When NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft arrived on the planet in 2001, it found traces of hydrogen on the red planet through its gamma-ray spectrometer.
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