Future visitors to Mars: short-term or long-term settlers – it all depends on the planet’s subsurface ice reserves.
Will future settlers on Mars be able to mine that ice for drinking, growing crops, or converting it into hydrogen for fuel?
It is still hard to study the surface of the planet. Dirt, rocks, and other surface-level contaminants prevent digging and drilling, going deep enough.
Fortunately, eight Martian regions with land erosion have been uncovered with the help of HiRISE, a powerful camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The deposits of underlying ice begin at a depth of one meter and extend upwards for 100 meters into the planet. It looks pure and promises to be mineable.
There is a hypothesis that the ice originated as snow that was falling in waves over millions of years. Observations of the Red Planet indicate that rivers and oceans may have been prominent features billions of years ago.
There is an optimistic goal to send Americans to the Red Planet some time during the 2030s. And water ice is an important factor in locating any potential landing site.
This new discovery opens new possibilities for science: finding something more valuable than just water – evidence for life, either past or present.