NASA Finds Vast Deposits of Ice Just Under Martian Surface

By the 2030s NASA hopes to send human explorers to Mars the surface of which is seen in a May 2017 handout

Now, according to a new study published on January 11 in the journal Science, scientists have found big sheets of water ice on Mars.

"If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars", says Leslie Tamppari, Deputy Project Scientist on MRO.

Do you believe that the discovery of ice on Mars increases potential habitability?

"There've been suggestions that, when there's high obliquity, the poles get heated a lot-they're tilted over and pointed more at the sun, and so that redistributes ice toward the midlatitudes", Colin Dundas, of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona told Wall of Those boulders actually allowed scientists to compare before-and-after images to calculate how fast the ice was shrinking back (a few millimeters every summer). The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more and appear to contain distinct layers, which could preserve a record of Mars' past climate. Those cliffs formed through a process called sublimation, in which exposed ice turned directly into water vapour. "A check of the surface temperature using Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera helped researchers determine they're not seeing just thin frost covering the ground", explains NASA on their website. 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.

"[The melting ice could] potentially expose new bits of ice and possibly be a very interesting place to look for new evidence of life, either in the recent geological past or even living today on Mars".

All of this strongly suggests that the surface-level ice and the large subsurface deposits are connected, the authors say. Although previous studies made scientists ware of the ice deposits on the ice, the latest study can provide vital information about the thickness, layering, and purity of ice on the red planet.

The ice could be a "game-changer" for human exploration and eventual settlement on the red planet.

Thick bands of ice (blue) spotted in Martian cliff faces.

Scientists hope that the ice sheets' proximity to the surface will facilitate their being studied using robots.

A photo of a crater on Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

'It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go?

According to the research paper, "The ice exposed by the scarps likely originated as snow that transformed into massive ice sheets, now preserved beneath less than 1 to 2 [meters] of dry and ice-cemented dust or regolith near ±55° latitude". All a thirsty astronaut would have to do would be to go at the scarp with a hammer and, presto, fresh Martian ice chips.

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