Erosion on Mars reveals ice, moves boulders

The researchers used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to make observations about ice on Mars

The researchers used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to make observations about ice on Mars. NASA

In 2008, the Phoenix Mars lander discovered similar ice deposits along martian scarps, but they were found in regions much closer to the planet's northern pole.

At sites across the midsection of Mars, scientists have found layers of water ice buried mere metres beneath the red planet's surface.

The researchers used photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to locate exposed ice from sections of the surface where hillsides have naturally eroded. It turned out he was looking at steep cliffs almost 330 feet (100 m) tall with exposed ice.

Researchers are presently discussing the profitable data they may learn by penetrating a center out of one of these stores and taking it back to Earth. These locations were not found on Mars' polar ice caps, where "hostile conditions" would prevent astronauts from scavenging the Martian ice, but in more friendly areas, NASA said.

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Scientists usually say Mars must have had a thicker atmosphere in the past that was lost to space; NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft is at the Red Planet looking at atmospheric loss. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", Byrne said. The tilt of Mars' axis of rotation varies much more than Earth's, over rhythms of millions of years.

The discovery of water on Mars, combined with geological evidence of ancient lakes, means the possibility of Mars supporting microbial life both in the past and present exists. "The presence of banding and color variations suggest layers", they argue, "possibly deposited with changes in the proportion of ice and dust under varying climate conditions".

"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", said MRO deputy project scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The underground ice has gradually been exposed by erosion, with researchers detecting it at depths ranging from two to more than 100 metres below the Martian surface.

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"There has been discussion by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group. and others in the community of using ice as a resource", lead author and planetary scientist Colin Dundas, said via email.

Thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle; erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle.

Over time, what first began as snow is "compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice", the study says.

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