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Mars ice sheets discovered by NASA could help colonize the planet


Mars
This image provided by
NASA shows the plant Mars

NASA via
AP


  • NASA scientists discovered eight instances of ice
    exposed on the Martian surface.
  • While scientists have long known about the red planet’s
    sub-surface ice sheets, this is the first time ice has been
    seen exposed and easily accessible.
  • The ice could be a “game-changer” for human exploration
    and eventual settlement on the red planet. 

 

There may be a major source of easily accessible drinkable water
on Mars, according to a new study in the journal Science

Using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which
has been orbiting the planet since 2006, scientists working with
the space agency
 discovered ice sheets that are
relatively pure and partially exposed on the Martian surface.

Scientists have long known about the existence
of subsurface ice
on the red planet and about major ice
deposits on its frigid poles. But they hadn’t seen exposed ice on
other parts of the planet’s surface before. The newly
discovered ice deposits are thick sheets just under the Martian
surface, and parts of the sheets are exposed in eight sites on
steep slopes up to 100 meters tall. 

Shane Byrne, a planetary scientist at the University
of Arizona and one of the study’s authors, told
Reuters
 the discovery a potential “game-changer” for
human exploration of Mars.


Mars ice
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.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS/Handout

“Here we have what we think is almost pure water ice buried
just below the surface. You don’t see a high-tech solution,”
Byrne said. “You can go out with a bucket and shovel and just
collect as much water as you need.”

The scientists believe the ice is consolidated snow that
was deposited relatively recently in geologic terms. 

The exposed portions of ice are located at mid-latitudes,
where the temperatures are a bit balmier for humans and robots to
operate. Other ice that exists at these latitudes is covered by
layers of Martian dust, or regolith. Those layers of loose rock
make the sub-surface ice extremely difficult to
access, Colin Dundas, the study’s leader and a geologist
with the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center, told
Reuters. 

“Previous ideas for extracting human-usable water from Mars
were to pull it from the very dry atmosphere or to break down
water-containing rocks,” Byrne said. But because these newly
discovered ice deposits are so much more accessible, they could
aid the foundation of a permanent Mars base — or at least, could
support future missions to study the planet.

Your move,
Elon Musk


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