Our understanding of Mars has shifted considerably over the years. We’ve seem to come full circle with the Red Planet as it was once believed to be a veritable oasis of life, until a closer look at its surface led us to believe it was an arid wasteland, and now upon further examination researchers at NASA have decided it may be somewhere in the middle of those two viewpoints.
Years ago scientists deduced that Mars was once home to large oceans not too unlike our own. Then, it was theorized that there could still be water underneath its surface, perhaps buried 10 meters or so beneath Mars’ soil. Now, researchers believe the water may only be mere inches below the planet’s dusty top.
This image from NASA reveals where researchers believe large reservoirs water may be hiding beneath the surface.
Led by Sylvain Piqueux of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the team of researchers found that potential Mars-bound space crews in the future might not need mining equipment to access large banks of ice on the planet. The depth of some ice reserves is so shallow that future colonization crews might only need a shovel to reach the ice.
“It’s just right there, you can scratch the surface and access it,” Piqueux said.
His team’s calculations are based on temperature measurements given by the ice directly beneath Mars’ soil. The closer the ice is to the top, the more extreme the ground surface’s temperature will be depending on the season.
Luckily for future explorers, Piqueux also found that these icy areas are not only found at the planet’s poles, but also in areas closer to its equator. This is good because conditions near the poles are much harsher to survive for humans, so it’s important to be able to land in more hospitable locations that will still provide sources of water.
All in all, this is much more comforting news for potential space travelers than the recently deleted press release that alien insect life forms are on Mars.