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13 January 2018, 01:04 | Marlene Fleming
Mars captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Space Telescope Science Institute
As Mike Wall reports for Space.com, NASA'sMars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has discovered eight sites where erosion has exposed enormous deposits of ice, some of which are 330 feet thick. Researchers explain that regions like this may mean frozen water will be more easily accessible to humans and robots than previously anticipated.
"We've found a new window into the ice for study, which we hope will be of interest to those interested in all aspects of ice on Mars and its history", saidColin Dundas, a member of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Centre in Arizona and an author of a report published Thursday in the journal Science.
UNDERGROUND ice supplies have been discovered on Mars which could provide unlimited water for humans looking to colonise the Red Planet. He says studying these ice sheets could give clues to Mars' past climate. 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.
Layer cake " This deep, thick, pure ice extends nearly all the way up to the surface" says co-author Ali Bramson. These findings further strengthened scientists' belief that there are water reserves locked underground on the red planet. "A check of the surface temperature using Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera helped researchers determine they're not seeing just thin frost covering the ground", explains NASA on their website.
NASA scientists used HiRISE, a powerful camera installed on its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to make the discovery of the ice in the faces of eroding slopes.
"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. "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".
NASA's take on things includes an observation that "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", a quote it's attributed to one of the paper's co-authors, Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson.
The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed waterice. The frozen water deposits were found in eight different regions of the planet where eroding slopes have exposed them. Such details suggest ice layers with different proportions of ice and dust that could have formed under varying climate conditions.
"If we were to send humans to live on Mars for a substantial period of time, it would be a fantastic source of water", Matt Balme, a planetary scientist in Britain, said. "So it doesn't actually have to be liquid water in which life can exist, and it would be very interesting to look at where these ice scarps are melting", Professor George said.
Over time, what first began as snow is "compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice", the study says.
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