NASA may be in the midst of developing plans to get to the Moon, but it actually has its eyes focused on Mars, thinking in advance to the most suitable place to send humans to. The expeditions might actually end up in a region of the Red Planet that has easy access to water ice.
The space agency released an image of a map that details a ‘treasure map for water ice on Mars’ this week. The capture showcases an area known as Arcadia Planitia, where the planet seems to be holding shallow ice sediments that could provide astronauts with priceless water resources for both drinking and making rocket fuel.
“You wouldn’t need a backhoe to dig up this ice. You could use a shovel,” said NASA’s Sylvain Piqueux, lead author of a paper on the water ice issued this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The scientists collected data from observations made by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) as well as the Mars Odyssey spacecraft to design the map. Water is heavy and difficult to carry in the spacecraft, more so when taking into consideration the massive distances involved in a route to the Red Planet. It would be more affordable to dig for water straight from Mars after landing.
NASA is not the only space agency that’s targeting the Arcadia region of the planet. SpaceX has also been eyeing this particular area as a possible landing spot for the forthcoming Starship expedition.
What Comes Next
Piqueux intends to plan an exhaustive campaign to continue observing the hidden ice across various seasons, writing down how the volume of this resource changes with time.
“We’re continuing to collect data on buried ice on Mars, zeroing in on the best places for astronauts to land,” he said.
MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA’s JPL also said that the more they search for near-surface ice, the more they will find.
JPL manages both the MRO and Mars Odyssey expeditions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The laboratory has built and manages the Mars Climate Sounder instrument, which could soon provide more information on the Red Planet.
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