We’ve recognized for years that there’s not less than some water ice on Mars, but it surely’s been exhausting to pin down the place it’s and the way simple it might be to extract. New information from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter signifies there could possibly be a number of it in big sheets that run for lots of of meters hiding just under the floor. This might make future manned missions to discover Mars far 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 below 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 photos 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 staff 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 not less than. Some deposits are believed to be as a lot as 100 meters thick. On high of the ice is a “cap” of ice blended with rock and dirt a couple of extra meters thick.
NASA believes that entry to water on Mars is important to any long-term exploration plans. Each speck of matter you launch into house provides tremendously to the price. Taking all of the water essential to maintain human astronauts provides important problems. Water isn’t just for individuals — splitting the molecules into oxygen and hydrogen yields gasoline 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 below the floor in these hotter areas. NASA’s 2020 rover will convey ground-penetrating radar to the crimson planet which may level scientists in the correct path.