We’ve recognized for years that there’s no less than some water ice on Mars, however it’s been arduous to pin down the place it’s and the way simple it will be to extract. New information from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter signifies there could possibly be quite a lot of it in giant sheets that run for hundreds of meters hiding just below the surface. This might make future manned missions to discover Mars rather more possible.
The dusty Martian floor has confirmed adept at hiding the planet’s icy deposits. Whereas a number of rovers and floor probes have studied Mars up shut, they’ll solely probe the highest meter or so of the floor. Scientists have lengthy suspected that any important sources of water ice on Mars could be beneath the floor the place they continue to be protected — from us and from the weather. Fortunately, erosion occurs on Mars similar to it does on Earth. Utilizing the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA has noticed a number of locations the place erosion has revealed huge ice sheets (in blue above).
Utilizing high-resolution photographs from the orbiter’s HiRISE digicam, NASA has recognized eight scarps (steep slopes) the place thick layers of water ice are seen alongside the planet’s mid-latitudes. The crew theorizes the ice was deposited up to now as snow earlier than being compacted and obscured by the mud and rocks of Mars. Readings point out the ice is comparatively pure and several other meters thick no less than. Some deposits are believed to be as a lot as 100 meters thick. On prime of the ice is a “cap” of ice combined with rock and mud a couple of extra meters thick.
NASA believes that entry to water on Mars is crucial to any long-term exploration plans. Each speck of matter you launch into area provides tremendously to the price. Taking all of the water essential to maintain human astronauts provides important issues. Water isn’t just for folks — splitting the molecules into oxygen and hydrogen yields gas that can be utilized for a return journey, saving much more on launch prices.
The search is on for extra examples of those icy scarps. The eight recognized by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are between 55 and 60 levels north or south of the equator. These areas of the planet get very chilly at night time, so most missions stick with a slim band across the equator. If icy scarps are present in these areas, it could possibly be a boon to future human exploration. Nevertheless, NASA worries deposits could possibly be hidden deeper beneath the floor in these hotter areas. NASA’s 2020 rover will deliver ground-penetrating radar to the purple planet that may level scientists in the appropriate course.