Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Mars has seething sheets of ice below its surface

Mars has seething sheets of ice below its surface

Lead author of the study Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff said that although he is not familiar with the resource extraction technology, but the discovery can prove to be beneficial for future crewed missions to Mars.

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.

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. But of course it's hard to confirm the identity of the layers seen in radar echoes, and the instrument doesn't have the resolution to figure out how close the ice might be to the surface beyond "less than 20 meters".

More immediately, mapping ice deposits is useful in...

"If we were to send humans to live on Mars for a substantial period of time, it would be a fantastic source of water", Balme said.

"Here we have what we think is nearly pure water ice buried just below the surface". Transporting water would be expensive: the heavier the payload atop a rocket, the more fuel is needed, which in turn increases the cost. It's the first detailed look at the layered structure of Mars' ice. The discovery of ice on the planet could be a big asset to any future exploration that is aimed at colonising the red planet.

That said, it may not be all that easy to access the ice found in the new study.

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In a study published today in the journal Science, researchers using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) investigated eight steep and eroded slopes (known as scarps) at various locations across Mars.

This could make it more hard for a human explorer to extract those resources, Zurek said.

"This kind of ice is more widesp".

Despite the fact that Mars has an atmosphere just 1% as dense as Earth's, the surface of the Red Planet still has to deal with plenty of weathering and erosion.

"It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places".

While there are some craters on Mars indicating the presence of past water bodies, there are relatively few, causing the scientists to hypothesize the ice formation occurred recently in geologic terms. At the ice cliffs, Dundas and his team could see the glaciers in cross section, and they patiently revisited the sites to see how they changed over time.

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