Written by Bryce Getchell | @Porkfryedbryce
One of the biggest discoveries of 2016 is that there is actually water on Mars. Recent studies have found that there is more water on the red planet than initially expected. Much more water. In fact, one particular ice deposit is holding as much water as Lake Superior, the largest of the great lakes.
This discovery was made by researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Orbiter’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument gathered data in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars.
Later analysis of this data revealed a giant deposit (more extensive that the entire US state of New Mexico) that ranged in thickness from around 260 feet to 560 feet. This deposit is not just ice, but a mixed combination of water ice with dust and rocky particles.
Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics in Texas is the author of a report in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters”. She explains how the deposit may have formed, “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.”
There is a good amount of talk about the potential to use this water for sustaining life and other purposes in the future. The deposit is covered by around 30 feet of Martian regolith, which is a positive as the ice would be unable to last on Mars’ surface. The soil over the deposit may make it difficult to reach, but actually protects it from turning into water vapor.
Continue to follow Upportunityu as we look forward to the future of Mars colonization and keep you up to date with the latest in space exploration.