Scientists Discovered Large Sheets Of Water Ice On Mars

Posted January 13, 2018

This means that relatively pure water ice, capped by only a thin layer of ice-cemented rock and dust, may be readily accessible to future exploration missions.

These points are located in mid-latitudes, about 55 to 58 degrees north and south of the Martian Equator (the equivalent of Scotland's position or South America's "nose" on Earth), ie in areas with easy access, far from the more inaccessible poles, where there is also plenty of water in the form of ice.

The discovery of a mountain of frozen water lying just under the surface of Mars has been hailed by scientists as game-changer for exploration of the Red Planet. It will probably need to be separated from debris that ended up in the water over time, but you can make it work, say the scientists.

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'There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars'.

The massive ice cliffs soar 100 metres high, but scientists with the US Geological Survey believe they could be just the beginning when it comes to what lies beneath the surface of the arid planet.

The underground water ice deposits were previously mapped out by the MRO's Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument, but there were limits to what could be learned from those scans. But they hadn't seen exposed ice on other parts of the planet's surface before.

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"Here we have what we think is nearly pure water ice buried just below the surface". "It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground". These types of geological events often expose the structures beneath the martian surface, revealing layers of rock, dry ice, and even water ice.

MRO brought us even more evidence of ice on Mars in the past: pools of (what appears to be) pure ice, puddled on the floors of fresh meteorite craters.

A cross-section of a thick sheet of underground ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view of Mars from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in this image released on January 11, 2018. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", Byrne said. The space agency says the MRO found a total of eight locations where these thick ice layers are exposed, all of them on eroding slope faces. "So it doesn't actually have to be liquid water in which life can exist, and it would be very interesting to look at where these ice scarps are melting", Professor George said.

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The researchers think the ice deposits started out as snow or frost that fell, was compacted and then recrystallized. We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate.