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These may be the best places for future Mars colonists to look for ice.

The locations come from the Mars Subsurface Water Ice Mapping (SWIM) project, which analyzes historical mission data taken over 20 years of missions to Mars. The project examines five different remote sensing datasets collected by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor.

“Each of our five techniques examines a different sort of proxy or a different way of trying to find signatures of water ice,” says Gareth Morgan, a researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., And lead author of the new one. to study. These techniques include thermal and geomorphic mapping, which looks for surface geological changes caused by ice that is less than five meters below the surface.

Morgan and his team found a few places that would appear to work perfectly in the northern hemisphere, namely the flat lowlands of Arcadia Planitia in mid to upper latitudes and the ice networks across Deuteronilus Mensae further east and slightly to the south. South. The first is an ancient region of ancient volcanic flows, with an alleged history of massive snowfall dating back tens of millions of years. The new results seem to suggest that these deposits slowly moved underground to very shallow depths that could be easy to drill.

Arcadia Planitia and Deuteronilus Mensae are both located in the northern hemisphere of Mars, at medium altitudes.


Meanwhile, Deuteronilus Mensae is home to modern glaciers and exists between the cratered highlands to the south and the low plains to the north. The ice here is effectively the remains of what were probably larger glacial structures in the past. It should be located under a thin layer of Martian earth and rock two meters or under a very porous material a few meters thick. In either case, the ice there would be fairly accessible to the colonists of Mars.

NASA funded this first round of analyzes only to focus on the northern hemisphere of Mars. Morgan believes it’s because there are great plains in the area that would make it easier for a spacecraft to land on the surface. But he would also like to pursue a more in-depth analysis of underground ice deposits in the southern hemisphere.

“Making this work open to the community capitalizes on all the expertise available, both inside and outside of NASA,” explains Leslie Gertsch, geological engineer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, who did not participate in the study. “The next step is to equip future missions with better ice mapping capability – from 0.5 to 15 meters below the surface, a depth range accessible by remote mining techniques.

NASA is already prospecting for water ice on the moon. Given the difficulty of going to Mars (the launch window is once every two years), it is worth thinking about these issues much earlier.

“The paucity of sufficiently detailed underground data, even on Earth, is why mining is always a gamble,” says Gertsch. “Yet it is necessary for humanity to survive elsewhere.”

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