A new source of clean water on Mars
Scientists have discovered massive sheets of ice buried mere feet beneath Mars’ dusty surface, a source of water that could prove crucial for future human outposts on the Red Planet. It’s been known for some time that as much as a third of the Martian surface contains shallow ice, but important details about that frozen water—its thickness, how pure it is—remained a mystery. To get that information, a team of researchers studied images captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of eight steep slopes on the planet’s midlatitudes where erosion has exposed banded underground layers of ice and rock. Some of the ice deposits start a few feet beneath the surface but extend more than 330 feet deep. And that ice, which likely started out as snow that fell tens of millions of years ago when Mars was wetter than it is today, appears to be relatively clean, reports SmithsonianMag.com. The revelation is “a game changer” for any manned missions to Mars, study co-author Shane Byrne says. “Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need.” The water could be used for drinking or farming, or combined with carbon dioxide—the main component of Mars’ atmosphere—to make oxygen and methane, a rocket fuel.