Water Ice Deposits Found On Mars Could Be Used As Water Resource For Astronauts On Future Mars Missions

First Posted: Nov 30, 2016 06:37 AM EST

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found abundant water beneath the plains on Mars.

The amount of water found could be compared to the volume found in the Great Lakes, according to Aviation Week Network.

Scientists studied the northern latitudes using the orbiter's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument.

The data collected from 600 overhead passes using the on-board radar instrument were analyzed to reveal widespread deposits.

Deposits -- Water Ice and Dust

As researchers analyzed the data, they found deposits with a composition of 50 percent to 85 percent water ice. The analysis revealed that the deposits were combined with dust and other particles that were rocky. The thickness was about 260 feet to nearly 560 feet.

Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, Austin, said "This deposit probably formed as snowfall accumulating into an ice sheet mixed with dust during a period in Mars history when the planet's axis was more tilted than it is today."

She has published a report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Water Ice at the Poles

Mars appears to collect excessive amounts of water at the poles. This is partly because of the axial tilt of 25 degrees. The tilt keeps altering and can go up to levels two times more. This causes the poles to heat up and could send the ice to mid-latitudes.

Research in this area has revealed that mid-latitude ice point to the fact that frozen water during a period of high tilt collects away from the poles.

Water Resource for Astronauts on Mars Missions

These deposits of water ice which is thought to cover latitude from 39 to 49 degrees within the plains could be used as water resource for astronauts, reports NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice," said Jack Holt of the University of Texas.

Indeed, this finding can be a shot in the arm for the envisaged Mars missions in the future.

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