New HiRISE Images Show 3D Structure of Martian Ice Sheets

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"We've known about ice on Mars, but we didn't know how close to the surface it was", Professor George said. Lead author of the study Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff said that although he is not familiar with the resource extraction technology, but the discovery can prove to be beneficial for future crewed missions to Mars.

Researchers found the scarp sites by gauging colors using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO, and confirmed its purity using CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging spectrometer for Mars).

"If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars", says Leslie Tamppari, Deputy Project Scientist on MRO. The researchers contemplate this ice to be enticing aim for subsequent exploration and a precious asset for earthlings residing in Mars.

"It is surprising that exposed ice has been found on the surface of these locations in mid-latitudes, which are usually covered by a layer of dust or rheology", said Dandas. The ice-harboring areas sport few craters, suggesting they're quite young, geologically speaking, the researchers said.

The remarkable ice cliffs appear to contain distinct layers, which could preserve a record of Mars' past climate, according to the report.

The newer Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mapped the surface in greater detail. They found the ice at the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, which is equivalent to Earth's regions like South America or Scotland, and believe it could "be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the red planet", they wrote.

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"If the conclusions of the paper are correct", he said, "you're looking at something that's nearly pure ice". The ice sheets are found 55 to 60 degrees north or south of the equator where temperatures can drop extremely low, making it hard for future astronauts to gain access to them.

Thick bands of ice (blue) spotted in Martian cliff faces.

Snow is rare on Mars today. It has a variety of instruments that can probe the chemical composition and subsurface structure of Mars, along with the best camera we've ever sent to another planet.

Despite the fact that Mars has an atmosphere just 1% as dense as Earth's, the surface of the Red Planet still has to deal with plenty of weathering and erosion.

Scientists hope that the ice sheets' proximity to the surface will facilitate their being studied using robots.

'There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars'. The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars' high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice. "So it doesn't actually have to be liquid water in which life can exist, and it would be very interesting to look at where these ice scarps are melting", Professor George said.