3D scans reveal huge underground ice sheets on Mars

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

NASA are now making accessing the ice a goal for future missions.

What's more, in light of the fact that the precarious slant demonstrated the ice's vertical structure, the cross-segment likewise recounts an anecdote about their history.

This research benefited from coordinated use of multiple instruments on Mars orbiters, plus the longevities at Mars now exceeding 11 years for MRO and 16 years for Odyssey.

The surface of Mars: could these images prove LIFE exists on the Red Planet? They were found at mid-latitudes (roughly the Martian equivalent of Canada or the UK) and occupied poleward-facing slopes.

"It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places".


The majority of the pictures were of locales in Mars' mid-scopes - around 55 degrees north or south of its equator. Their lower reaches were covered in rubble, making it hard to determine the total thickness of any ice deposits. At some of them, the exposed deposit of water ice is more than 100 yards, or meter, thick. That's thick enough for the orbiting camera to resolve different colored bands within the material. They hold clues about Mars' climate history.

Tanya N. Harrison, a director of research at Arizona State University's NewSpace Initiative, says this is "a really exciting paper" that provides the first direct observational evidence of the nature of the thick mantling deposits that cover much of Mars' higher latitudes in both hemispheres. Excitingly, these layers could be studied further to help scientists better understand changes in Mars' climate over time - and even detect signs of prior habitability. Thus, examining the layers could tell us about the history of how Mars' watery past came to a close.

The rust-colored world is known for its oxidized look, but if you dig down into the dirt, Mars gets a lot more interesting. The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there. The ice-harboring areas sport few craters, suggesting they're quite young, geologically speaking, the researchers said. However, once the buried ice becomes exposed to Mars' atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it "retreats", due to sublimation of the ice directly from solid form into water vapor. Radar studies of the subsurface have found features that have been interpreted as dust and rock covered glaciers and some indications of ice sheets in other areas of the Red Planet. "You don't see a high-tech solution", Byrne added.

The findings showed that ice may be more available than previously known for use as water to support future robotic or human exploration missions, perhaps even the establishment of a permanent Mars base. They could also make for accessible sites to extract water for human use, although that would obviously conflict with studying the ice's layers for clues to the past.

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