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Mars ice could sustain human outposts

Mars ice could sustain human outposts

Whilst water ice is known to be present in some locations on Mars, many questions remain about its layering, thickness, purity, and extent. Now, according to a new study published on January 11 in the journal Science, scientists have found big sheets of water ice on Mars. And we need water ice on Mars because we can combine it with the Carbon dioxide that's very abundant in the atmosphere, and that gives us two very important things for future manned habitability of Mars.

NASA has released an enhanced image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's (MRO) HiRISE camera; in it, we see layers of underground ice that are exposed on the Mars landscape.

Buried glaciers have been spotted on Mars, in a "game changing" development that could provide unlimited water for the first human visitors to the red planet.

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.

"It is surprising that exposed ice has been found on the surface of these locations in mid-latitudes, which are usually covered by a layer of dust or rheology", said Dandas.

Analyzing these features with a filter that accentuates colors, a team of researchers saw something notable for the Red Planet: a number of them had a distinctively blue color.

"These shallow depths make the ice sheets potentially accessible to future exploration", the authors wrote, "and the scarps present cross-sections of these ices that record past episodes of ice deposition on Mars".




As with many things Martian, the work relies on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"What this study shows is that there is abundant water trapped just beneath the surface of Mars", said Professor Martin Van Kranendonk, director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. The ice sheets are found 55 to 60 degrees north or south of the equator where temperatures can drop extremely low, making it hard for future astronauts to gain access to them. Both NASA and the European Space Agency are due to send rovers to Mars in 2020, which are equipped with radar and drill technologies that can explore beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

Mars may not be as dry as it looks.

Planetary scientists around the world are finding hope in that this could, in fact, be the clue to pure ice.

If the ice deposits are capable of supporting human life, there is a good chance it could indicate whether alien life might exist below the surface of Mars as well.

Boffins are also excited by the finds' potential to help us understand Martian history. 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.

Researchers say the ice most likely started out as snow that was deposited far back in Mars' history.


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