Newly Found Glaciers on Mars Could Support Future Colonies

Thursday, 11 January 2018 - 6:32PM
Space
Mars
Thursday, 11 January 2018 - 6:32PM
Newly Found Glaciers on Mars Could Support Future Colonies
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS

Finding water on Mars is always exciting. The Red Planet is always thought of in popular culture as being one step less habitable than Utah - dry, sandy desert in all directions, with nothing but rocks and the occasional cannonball to break up the scenery. In reality, there's a lot more going on with Mars than most people realize.

Case in point: we've just found huge supplies of frozen water buried just below the planet's surface. Considering how dead and lifeless the surface of Mars has proven to be, it's nice to know that there are plenty of more interesting secrets waiting to be discovered just below ground.

Ice on Mars was initially discovered a few years ago, but at the time, we weren't entirely sure how much was there. It seemed that the planet had a respectable supply of frozen water dotted around the planet's surface, but as it turns out, this is literally just the tip of the iceberg. There's likely to be plenty more deeper down, and if anything is living on Mars, that's where it'll likely be holed up.

https://twitter.com/HiRISE/status/951533181743775744




Geologist Colin Dundas initially made the discovery, when he spotted blue lines on aerial photos of the Martian surface taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Further research uncovered that this strip of blue is in fact the markings of a sheer glacial wall - an entire mountain of ice exists on the planet, reaching far underground, and measuring as tall as 330 feet.

With all this ice just barely concealed under a surface layer of rock and dust, it's looking like this could be an invaluable resource for future colonization efforts. According to Dundas' official report:

Opening quote
"These shallow depths make the ice sheets potentially accessible to future exploration, and the (cliffs) present cross-sections of these ices that record past episodes of ice deposition on Mars."
Closing quote


Essentially, if we ever do manage to make it to the point where we'll create a permanent base on the planet, if we install it on or near one of these humongous glaciers, the colonists will have a solid, dependable water supply that will provide for a lot of their needs going forward - including rocket fuel, should the colonists then want to explore further throughout the solar system.

This also means that there's all the more incentive to try terraforming the planet to make it more habitable, as it won't involve shipping in quite as many raw materials from elsewhere in the solar system. The discovery of all this ice makes the prospect of exploring Mars all the more achievable, and it also highlights the tantalizing possibility that there might be more going on under the planet than we've managed to see thus far.



Increasingly, it's looking like if alien life exists anywhere on Mars, it probably lives underground, and there may well be a lot more interesting natural wonders just waiting to be discovered once we start digging.

Just think - all this time spent obsessing over the minutia of the Martian surface, when all the really cool stuff is buried underground.

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