Newly Discovered Martian Ice Could Be Good News For Future Astronauts

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To visit it, you'll have to travel to Mars.

Many scientists are looking forward to colonizing the Red Planet in the future.

"Here we have what we think is nearly pure water ice buried just below the surface". And we need water ice on Mars because we can combine it with the Carbon dioxide that's very abundant in the atmosphere, and that gives us two very important things for future manned habitability of Mars.

The discovery is particularly exciting for future human exploration of the planet previously renowned for its dry arid landscape. There are very few craters in these areas, suggesting that the sheets of ice water on Mars are young in terms of geology, according to Space.com. Some of that ice was then covered up by the movement of dirt on the surface of the planet, saving it from sublimating - turning straight from a solid into gas.

As with many things Martian, the work relies on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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The exposed portions of ice are located at mid-latitudes, where the temperatures are a bit balmier for humans and robots to operate. Dundas said that the high-resolution data has greatly improved their understanding of various ice-related landforms on Mars.

Using the MRO's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, the team was able to get a cross sectional look at the ice to learn more about its composition and depth.

The research, which was funded by NASA, was conducted by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory along with the U.S. Geological Survey, the nonprofit Planetary Science Institute, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas.

"The discovery reported today gives us surprising windows where we can see right into these thick underground sheets of ice", says Shane Byrne, co-author of the study. Balme agreed that snowfall probably created the ice over a period of a few thousand years.

The most significant find is that the ice persists through the Martian summer. The buried ice revealed itself after the structures became unstable and expanded.

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NASA scientists discovered eight instances of ice exposed on the Martian surface. Boulders and dust that rested on the ice suddenly had their foundation vanish into the atmosphere.

The sheets' proximity to the surface makes them accessible, in theory, to robot explorers.

The ice could also provide a frozen record of the planet's changing climate over millennia.

In August, scientists obtained 2.7-million-year-old ice samples from Antarctica containing air bubbles, which offer evidence of climatic conditions before the ice ages began.

And flesh-and-blood explorers might benefit, too (though the middle latitudes of Mars appear to be colder, less welcoming terrain than regions closer to the equator).

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'It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go?

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