Profile image
Story Views

Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:

Giant water deposit could be the key to a base on Mars

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 11:18
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

A recently-discovered cache of subsurface water ice on Mars may very well be the key to the success of future manned missions to the Red Planet, serving as an oasis for the astronauts who are charged with establishing a colony or outpost on the barren world, experts warn.

The ice deposits, which were discovered beneath a 3 to 33-foot thick layer of soil in the region known as Utopia Planitia earlier this month, are said to be between 260 feet and 560 feet thick, roughly equal in volume to Lake Superior, and larger than the state of New Mexico.

mars ice plain

Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

First detected by Cassie Stuurman of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and her colleagues using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument, the ice deposits is believed to have between 50% and 85% water composition and is located roughly halfway between the Martian equator and the north pole, 39 degrees to 49 degrees latitude.

While the discovery of the ice deposits was initially treated as potentially good news for those who will ultimately be travelling to the Red Planet, Ian O’Neill, the space science producer for Discovery News, suggests that the discovery “could represent a game-changer for the future of Mars colonization” and could be essential to such a mission’s success.

Location of ice deposit ideal – if astronauts can extract the water

In a recent article published on the Discovery News website, O’Neill wrote, “The necessity of landing future Mars explorers near a known water resource is a no-brainer… Water isn’t only a requirement for keeping astronauts alive, it’s needed for fuel production and would sustain any burgeoning Martian agriculture.”

“Put simply, unless we find Martian water and understand how to access it, our Mars colonization dreams are over,” he added. However, the newfound subsurface ice deposit “may, someday, be an oasis for future Mars explorers” as they try to survive on a world that is “more barren (and a lot more toxic) than the dryest desert on Earth,” according to O’Neill.

In a statement, Stuurman said that this deposit (which most likely originated as snowfall before mixing with dust and other particles and accumulating into an ice sheet) represents less than 1% of all known water ice on Mars – so what makes it so important? Like the old real estate mantra, it’s all about “location, location, location.”

For starters, the ice deposits are located near the surface, which would make it easier for a team of astronauts to access. In addition, as co-author and UT professor Jack Holt explained following its initial discovery, this specific deposit is “more accessible than most water ice on Mars,” since it is “at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area” – meaning it would be easier to land a spacecraft nearby than it would be at other regions near subsurface water ice.

Of course, all that water is useless unless you can find a way to extract it from the underground ice deposits. Fortunately, researchers from the University of Washington are developing a way to do just that, according to GeekWire. They want to use nearly 20-year-old technology known as a water vapor adsorption reactor (WAVAR) to “cook” water out of the soil using microwaves.


Image credit: ESA

The post Giant water deposit could be the key to a base on Mars appeared first on Redorbit.
offers Science, Space, Technology, Health news, videos, images and reference information. For the latest science news, space news, technology news, health news visit frequently. Learn something new every day.”


We encourage you to Share our Reports, Analyses, Breaking News and Videos. Simply Click your Favorite Social Media Button and Share.

Report abuse


Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Top Stories
Recent Stories



Top Global


Top Alternative




Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.