NASA scientists say steep slopes on Mars reveal structure of buried ice

Ice sheets on Mars

Ice sheets on Mars

Geological Survey researchers allegedly observed large, steep cross-sections of water in the form of ice under the surface of Mars. Still, scientists remain optimistic and are determined to send the first manned mission to Mars by 2030.

Dundas along with his colleagues took a look at the photos which were captured over the years by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, located on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The exposed ice has scientific value apart from its potential resource value because it preserves evidence about long-term patterns in Mars' climate.

In 2016, a NASA study said ice may yield more water per scoop than minerals, which means the H20 could be more hard to access. Those boulders actually allowed scientists to compare before-and-after images to calculate how fast the ice was shrinking back (a few millimeters every summer). There's a thick cover of it on the planet's poles (which Elon Musk thinks we should nuke) and MRO's radar suite has picked up signatures of buried ice across Mars.

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NASA scientists discovered eight instances of ice exposed on the Martian surface. The ice-harboring areas sport few craters, suggesting they're quite young, geologically speaking, the researchers said. We investigated eight of these locations and found that they expose deposits of water ice that can be 100 meters thick, extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to 2 meters below the surface.

"This subsurface ice could contain valuable records of the Martian climate, just like the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores", said Susan Conway, a planetary scientist at the University of Nantes in France. The ice seems to be relatively pure and some of the deposits are only about a meter below the surface, writes Robbie Gonzalez of Wired. Although previous studies made scientists ware of the ice deposits on the ice, the latest study can provide vital information about the thickness, layering, and purity of ice on the red planet. All these things indicate that Mars was a watery planet in its initial phase and now it has become a dry and icy planet. 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. Some of that ice was then covered up by the movement of dirt on the surface of the planet, saving it from sublimating - turning straight from a solid into gas.

The sheets' proximity to the surface makes them accessible, in theory, to robot explorers.

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. All a thirsty astronaut would have to do would be to go at the scarp with a hammer and, presto, fresh Martian ice chips.

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