The search for life on Mars is likely to get a new boost after a group of scientists studying the red planet recently discovered a giant deposit of ice underground. The buried ice, bigger in size than the state of new Mexico, reportedly contains as much water as Lake Superior (12,090 cubic kilometers).
The ice layer lies on the mid-northern latitude of the planet and is covered by no more than three to 33 feet of soil (~one to 10 meters). Because of its sheer size and easier accessibility, the ice layer could possibly serve as a resource for future astronauts visiting the planet, said the study author.
“This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice,” co-author Jack Holt, of the University of Texas, Austin, said in a statement.
Led by Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysicist at the University of Texas, the study analyzed Mars’ Utopia Planitia region using the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The reason behind the scientists focusing on the area is its “scalloped depressions” that’s similar to the landscape in the Canadian Arctic
They focused on this area because Utopia Planitia features “scalloped depressions” similar to the landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that lie above-buried ice.
“It’s important to expand what we know about the distribution and quantity of Martian water,” Leslie Tamppari of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said while explaining the scope of this new finding.
“We know early Mars had enough liquid water on the surface for rivers and lakes. Where did it go? Much of it left the planet from the top of the atmosphere. Other missions have been examining that process. But there’s also a large quantity that is now underground ice, and we want to keep learning more about that.”