NASA scientists have potentially found accessible ice on Mars, a promising development for possible future human expeditions to the Red Planet.
The NASA-funded Subsurface Water Ice Mapping project (SWIM) recently released its most detailed set of maps showing subsurface ice since the project began in 2017. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory believes this discovery is a “scientific target” for drilling and exploration on Mars.
“Astronauts or robots could one day drill ice cores, uncovering the climate history of Mars and exploring potential habitats (past or present) for microbial life,” JPL said in on its website.
The SWIM project uses data from several NASA missions, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and other technologies to develop imagery showing the likeliest places to find Martian ice that can be accessed from the surface.
The reason scientists need to find subsurface ice is because water on Mars’ surface immediately vaporizes due to the planet’s thin atmosphere, according to NASA.
The buried ice could be drinkable and may also serve as an ingredient for rocket fuel, JPL says. NASA first discovered ice on Mars’ north pole in 2008, unveiling the extreme environmental conditions in the region.
“The less energy you have to expend on keeping astronauts and their supporting equipment warm, the more you have for other things they’ll need, ” Do said.
NASA will continue testing its mapping methods to find the precise location of ice.
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