Evidence of water on Mars was first discovered way back in 1971 with the Mariner 9 mission. What we haven’t known is how pure the water is (meaning, how safe is it to drink) and whether or not it’s accessible. Until recently, that is.
In early January, a team of researchers led by U.S. planetary geologist Colin Dundas revealed some revolutionary findings.
How Scientists Discovered The Ice
Dundas and crew combined data from two different satellites to pinpoint the location of the ice. On Mars, when you see something bright, it’s usually ice.
The team had plenty of help from mother nature. Erosion had exposed the ice close enough to the surface to brighten up the images and make it visible.
What Makes This Ice Useful
The article, published in Science Magazine, revealed the discovery of eight different regions where ice sits close to the surface. How close? In some locations, only a single meter, or well within mining range.
The depth of the ice is also noteworthy, in some places extending up to 100 meters into the soil of the planet. Dundas says that they aren’t yet able to calculate the volume of the ice, but projections are hopeful.
The real kicker is that the ice seems to be pretty pure. This must come as fantastic news for Elon Musk and the SpaceX program, who hope to deliver their first shipment of humans to the red planet sometime around 2030.
Still, the existence of ice doesn’t mean it’ll be easygoing for the first Mars colonists.
Challenges With Harvesting The Ice
The ice is located in the upper to mid-latitudes of Mars, at roughly 55-60 degrees north of the equator.
In Earth terms, Alaska.
Not exactly the ideal place to start a colony. Most Mars missions don’t land farther than 30 degrees north of the equator, and those are the limits of what the machines can handle. Imagine being a human out there. Yikes!
Water is a precious resource and one that’s hard to come by on the red planet. Scientists are hopeful that erosion has also unveiled ice in more hospitable areas. It’s an exciting find and one that will no doubt push humanity closer to visiting the red planet.