Below the characteristic reddish layer of Mars there is an almost pure ice sheet about 90 meters thick and up to 170 meters thick in the plains of Utopia and Arcadia. The study, led by Colin M. Dundas, of the US Geological Survey. (USGS), confirms through analysis, the existence of large quantities of liquid frozen at a shallow depth. This finding, published in the journal Science, offers us a more promising vision for future manned missions to the red planet, since it could be easy to extract water or even the hypothetical terraforming of Mars.
Planetary scientists located eight fractures on the surface of Mars. An analysis of these fractures revealed for the first time the amount of water ice under the surface and how deep the ice appears to be.
“We have found a new window to study on the ice, which we hope will be of interest to those interested in all aspects of Mars and its history,” says Colin Dundas, leader of the work.
It is not new to talk about ice on Mars. In 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft reached the planet and began snooping around to find chemical signatures of ice. Since then many traces we have found. Without going any further, in 2016, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA located under the terrain of the red planet water ice, so as to fill the amount, the largest of the North American Great Lakes Lake Superior.
Thanks to the more detailed recognition carried out by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the scientists managed to locate the exposed ice in small craters, glaciers and layers of Martian ice. “The high-resolution data has greatly improved our understanding of various landforms related to ice, “says Dundas
Who is bluish in color, indicating a sub-layer of ice. Frozen are a mixture of water and earth. “If the conclusions of the article are correct, you are seeing something that is almost pure ice,” says Dundas, noting that the ice is receding in the places where it is exposed, a rhythm of a few millimeters per
year.The fractures exist along the middle latitudes of the planet, discarding the glaciers that migrated from the poles.The authors of the study propose that these layers of ice were formed when the snow thick covered Mars for a period of a few thousand years. There is no doubt about their presence, because the signature of ice persists during the summer.
“If we had to send human beings to live on Mars for a substantial period of time, it would be a fantastic source of water,” says Matt Balme, planetary scientist at the Open University (United Kingdom), who was not involved in the study.
It is clear that if this is the case, the astronauts would have a vital raw material right next to the camp. All that would have to be done would be to go to the fracture with a hammer and pick up pieces of Martian ice.
Much more than ice
The exposed ice has a vital scientific value apart from its potential magnitude of resource because it preserves the evidence about the long-term patterns in the climate of Mars . The tilt of the axis of rotation of Mars varies much more than that of the Earth in rhythms of millions of years. Today, the inclinations of the two planets are more or less the same. The higher the slope of Mars, the climatic conditions can favor the accumulation of ice in mid-latitudes.
This research benefited from the coordinated use of multiple instruments in the Mars orbiter, plus the Mars file that now exceeds 11 years for the MRO spacecraft and 16 years for the Odyssey spacecraft.