Scientists Discover Clean Water Ice Just Below Mars' Surface



Scientists have discovered clean water ice just below martian surface. In fact, with the help of HiRISE, a powerful camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, they've found several. In this week's issue of Science, researchers led by USGS planetary geologist Colin Dundas present detailed observations of eight Martian regions where erosion has uncovered large, steep cross-sections of underlying ice. 

It’s not just the volume of water they found (it's no mystery that Mars harbors a lot of ice in these particular regions), it’s how mineable it promises to be. The deposits begin at depths as shallow as one meter and extend upwards of 100 meters into the planet. The researchers don't estimate the quantity of ice present, but they do note that the amount of ice near the surface is likely more extensive than the few locations where it's exposed. And what's more, the ice looks pretty damn pure.


NASA calls the use of space-based resources “in-situ resource utilization,” and the agency thinks it will be essential to survival in deep space. Of particular interest to ISRU planners is the depth of the ice, and the ratio of pure ice to that mixed in with bits of Mars regolith. The more pristine the ice, and the closer it is to the surface, the less energy it takes to extract and use.

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