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Huge reserves of water ice discovered on Mars could speed manned missions

12 January 2018

Here's how it works on Mars: When the planet is farther from the sun in its orbit, and it snows, that snow remains on the surface and becomes a buildup of ice.

The researchers used photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to locate exposed ice from sections of the surface where hillsides have naturally eroded. Erosion revealed these icy blue spots, and they're still visible today. They could also make for accessible sites to extract water for human use, although that would obviously conflict with studying the ice's layers for clues to the past.

"Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", said co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.

In 2011, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back images of odd dark streaks on some slopes of Mars, news that reverberated throughout the scientific community, many members of which postulated that the geological feature could be a sign of flowing water.

Scientists have discovered vast deposits of water ice on Mars, prompting calls for future study and improving the chances of possible habitability of the Red Planet. Fours years later, scientists presented evidence that the streaks were caused by hydrated minerals that flowed down the slopes in the Martian warm seasons.

The findings provide the clearest picture yet of the water locked up on Mars, a remnant of its beginnings as a watery world. When Mars tilts more, climate conditions may favor buildup of middle-latitude ice.

Furthermore, the appearance of variation in color in the photographs demonstrate distinct layers, which could be used to describe the planet's climatic record.

"If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars", suggested MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. This revealed cliffs composed mostly of water ice, which is slowly sublimating as it is exposed to the atmosphere.

Scientists say they've made an fantastic discovery: Beneath the surface of the planet Mars there is a vast amount of water ice.

"What they show is slices through ice, in some places the ice is 100 metres thick and starts within a metre or two of the surface", Colin Dundas, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Centre, told CBC News. The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars' high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice.

What's more, in light of the fact that the precarious slant demonstrated the ice's vertical structure, the cross-segment likewise recounts an anecdote about their history.

Huge reserves of water ice discovered on Mars could speed manned missions