Thick Sheets of Water Ice Found Buried Under Mars's Surface

Beth Cruz
January 13, 2018

Researchers explain that regions like this may mean frozen water will be more easily accessible to humans and robots than previously anticipated.

"We've found a new window into the ice for study, which we hope will be of interest to those interested in all aspects of ice on Mars and its history", said Dundas, a member of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona.

UNDERGROUND ice supplies have been discovered on Mars which could provide unlimited water for humans looking to colonise the Red Planet.

"We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate", the study says.

A team of scientists has spotted huge ice water reserves just below the surface of the planet at eight different points. Some of the deposits are just one meter below the surface, while others extends up to 100 meters deep.

We've known for years that there is at least some water ice on Mars, but it's been hard to pin down where it is and how easy it would be to extract.

In a new paper, researchers argue these findings suggest there are vast stores of underground ice tantalizingly close to the surface, even at low martial latitudes (i.e. closer to the equator).

'What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before'.

A wider image of an ice scarp showing color-enhanced region.

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. "You don't see a high-tech solution", Byrne said. And the ice is buried by just a few feet of Martian dirt in places, meaning it might be accessible to future crewed missions. 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. The sites of exposed ice are located on steep slopes, or "scarps", in Mars' midlatitudes. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", Shane Byrne, and associate professor at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and a co-author of the new report, said in a NASA press release.

Such structures promise to yield a layered record of past martian climates, similarly to how polar ice caps do on Earth.

'It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go? The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice.

The authors favor the idea that what they've found is indeed ice, probably mixed with dust, and was deposited during a time when Mars experienced snow. Terrestrial ice deposits are often mined to see what lies within, so perhaps one day we'll have the chance to sample Martian ice too.

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