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Huge Underground Ice Sheets Discovered on Mars

Huge Underground Ice Sheets Discovered on Mars

The researchers, led by geologist Colin Dundee Center Astrogeologias the US Geological Survey, who made a notice published in the journal "Science", analyzed photos and other data collected by the satellite Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of NASA, orbiting Mars since 2006. This new information is now being hailed by space scientists as a significant game-changer in our quest to colonize Mars. Those layers of loose rock make the sub-surface ice extremely hard to access, Colin Dundas, the study's leader and a geologist with the US Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center, told Reuters.

The photographs show eight different locations where steep, pole-facing slopes created by erosion have exposed substantial amounts of ice persisting below the surface. Now available methods of peering below the planet's surface can't access the depths where the water ice is present.

A wider image of an ice scarp showing color-enhanced region. The varied layers can offer insights into Mars' geology and climate history. The ice-harboring areas sport few craters, suggesting they're quite young, geologically speaking, the researchers said. Still, the newly sequenced HiRISE data provides researchers with more details regarding the ice sheets.

In 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was launched to explore Mars. They exist as pure water ice today, with rock and dust cemented in layers throughout it.

"It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground", the paper's co-author Shane Byrne said in a statement.

The research is based on the first ever comprehensive analysis of halite (salt-containing) crystals found within Zag and Monahans, two 4.5 billion-year-old rocks believed to have come from the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Of particular interest to ISRU planners is the depth of the ice, and the ratio of pure ice to that mixed in with bits of Mars regolith.

"We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate", the study says. We are talking a 100-meter-thick chunk of ice that can be converted into water.

Mars has plans to send a surface-drilling lander to the Red Planet this year, but the InSight lander will be collecting sediment cores, not ice. The sites discovered by Dundas and his team were found at the 55 to 60 degree north or south latitudes. Scientists imagine sending spacecraft to hitch a ride through Mars' atmosphere on larger vehicles, only to break off at low altitude and collide with the planet. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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