Large deposits of subsurface water ice two miles thick have been found near the Martian equator by the European Space Agency – ESA orbiter. This discovery could improve future prospects for human Mars settlement.
Water Ice Buried at Mars’ Equator is Over 2 Miles Thick
By Keith Cooper, Space.com, 01.19.24
A European Space Agency (ESA) probe has found enough water to cover Mars in an ocean between 4.9 and 8.9 feet (1.5 and 2.7 meters) deep, buried in the form of dusty ice beneath the planet’s equator.
The finding was made by ESA’s Mars Express mission, a veteran spacecraft that has been engaged in science operations around Mars for 20 years now. While it’s not the first time that evidence for ice has been found near the Red Planet’s equator, this new discovery is by far the largest amount of water ice detected there so far and appears to match previous discoveries of frozen water on Mars.
“Excitingly, the radar signals match what we expect to see from layered ice and are similar to the signals we see from Mars’ polar caps, which we know to be very ice rich,” said lead researcher Thomas Watters of the Smithsonian Institution in the United States in an ESA statement.
The deposits are thick, extended 3.7km (2.3) miles underground, and topped by a crust of hardened ash and dry dust hundreds of meters thick. The ice is not a pure block but is heavily contaminated by dust. While its presence near the equator is a location more easily accessible to future crewed missions, being buried so deep means that accessing the water-ice would be difficult.
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[Image: PSI / SI]