Tech UPTechnologyMars has ice water just 2.5 cm from the...

Mars has ice water just 2.5 cm from the surface

The US space agency has ambitious plans to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024, as a necessary step to send humans to Mars. Now, thanks to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, we know where the first humans should land on the red planet thanks to the first map of Martian water ice. And there is good news: the water ice is 2.5 centimeters below the surface.

“You wouldn’t need a backhoe to dig up this ice,” NASA research Sylvain Piqueux said in a press release. “You could use a shovel.”

We have known that water ice has existed on Mars since 2008, and according to this new research, NASA is discovering more and more water ice.

“The more ice we search near the surface, the more we find, ” NASA researcher Leslie Tamppari said in the press release. “Observing Mars with multiple spacecraft over the years continues to provide us with new ways to discover this ice.”

Astronomers believe that astronauts could dig up the underground supply of icy water with a shovel and use it as drinking water or rocket fuel.

The location of ice reserves is important to allow manned missions to the planet, and could help identify locations for projects such as the Mars base planned by SpaceX. Water is heavy enough to be transported from Earth by rockets, so finding it on Mars could help humans survive there cheaply. However, because the planet has such a thin atmosphere, most of the water on the surface evaporates quickly.

We have known for a long time that there is water on Mars in the form of ice. And with this new map, researchers have a plan for where to start planning missions and ultimately sending astronauts to Mars.

Arcadia Planitia would be a possible landing site

While there are many Martian places that scientists want to visit, few are practical as landing sites for astronauts. Most scientists have focused on the northern and southern mid-latitudes, which have more sunlight and warmer temperatures than the poles. But there is a strong preference for landing in the northern hemisphere , which is generally lower and provides more atmosphere for stopping a landing spacecraft.

A large part of the region called Arcadia Planitia presents itself as the most tempting target in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, the map shows water ice less than a foot below the surface.

What’s next?

Since we probably won’t send humans to Mars before the 2030s, NASA has plenty of time to identify the ideal landing site, helping to ensure the success of that historic first mission.

Referencia: Sylvain Piqueux, Jennifer Buz, Christopher S. Edwards, Joshua L. Bandfield, Armin Kleinböhl, David M. Kass, Paul O. Hayne. Widespread Shallow Water Ice on Mars at High and Mid Latitudes. Geophysical Research Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1029/2019GL083947

 

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