NASA Discovers Water Ice Hiding Below the Surface of Mars

Humans have long been trying to explore the planets present in the solar system, focusing on the availability of water that is necessary for drinking or creating rocket fuel. During the hunt for water on neighboring Mars, NASA has released a “treasure map” of potential ice locations on the red planet. After thoroughly analyzing the position of the water ice on the Red Planet, NASA will zero down on a landing site on Mars.

The researchers have also claimed that the ice is so close to the surface, it could be easily accessed with simple tools. To build the first Martian research station, satellites orbiting Mars can help scientists to determine the most appropriate places. They used the Mars Climate Sounder on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument on Mars Odyssey orbiter to gather the data. Both of these tools can detect heat. The tools helped the scientists to generate a map of where the ice is trapped below the surface.

Treasure Map and Landing Site

According to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) report, a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters provides a map of this water ice below. The water ice map of Mars is given here. The blue and purple indicate water ice less than one foot (30 cm) below the surface. The light color indicates they are close to the surface than the warm colors. The black zones indicate the areas where a spacecraft may sink into a fine dust. To represent the ideal region where the astronauts may dig up water ice, they outlined the area with a box.

Sylvain Piqueux, the lead author of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, "You wouldn't need a backhoe to dig up this ice. You could use a shovel."

"We're continuing to collect data on buried ice on Mars, zeroing in on the best places for astronauts to land," he added. The scientists mostly prefer northern and southern mid-latitudes because of more sunlight and temperatures than the poles. But the northern hemisphere is preferred for landing that is lower in elevation, giving a preferable atmosphere to a slow landing spacecraft.

Buried Treasure Ice Water on Mars

The air pressure on Mars is very low, and liquid water can't last in the thin air. It immediately evaporates from a solid to a gas when exposed to the atmosphere. Martian water ice is locked away underground throughout Mars's mid-latitudes. NASA's Phoenix lander closely observed the regions near the pole, which scraped up ice. The study's authors relied on MRO and THEMIS, two of the heat-sensitive instruments to find ice. Do you know the reason behind using these heat-sensitive instruments? It is the changing temperature of the Martian surface by buried water ice.

What About the Next Step?

To continue the study of buried ice across different reasons, Piqueux is planning a comprehensive campaign. It also aims to observe how the abundance of this resource changes over time. MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of JPL said, "The more we look for near-surface ice, the more we find."

"Observing Mars with multiple spacecraft over the course of years continues to provide us with new ways of discovering this ice," he added.