Key idea: While humans may be starry-eyed about sending people across the solar system to live on Mars one day, the discovery of a “relict glacier” on the red planet could mean that dream is one step closer to reality.
Original author and publication date: CNN Newssource – March 17, 2023
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Water on Mars? I still remember when, not so long ago, people where laughing about that idea. So, what else is there?
From the article:
Scientists say the “groundbreaking announcement” presented at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, could mean “surface water ice” exists on Mars even to this day.
A “relict glacier” is not made of ice, but is rather one of several “light-toned deposits” (LTDs) found in the area. Scientists say LTDs are typically made up of light-coloured sulfate salts, however this one appears to have very similar features to a glacier.
Researchers say the relict glacier was found near Mars’ equator (precisely in Eastern Noctis Labyrinthus at coordinates 7° 33′ S, 93°14′ W for space enthusiasts), meaning ice may still be around the area at shallow depths which could have “significant implications for future human exploration.”
The discovery suggests Mars may have had a more “watery” history than scientists previously suspected, which could change our understanding of how the red planet can sustain human life.
“We’ve known about glacial activity on Mars at many locations, including near the equator in the more distant past. And we’ve known about recent glacial activity on Mars, but so far, only at higher latitudes. A relatively young relict glacier in this location tells us that Mars experienced surface ice in recent times, even near the equator, which is new,” said Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, and the lead author of the study.
“The desire to land humans at a location where they might be able to extract water ice from the ground has been pushing mission planners to consider higher latitude sites. But the latter environments are typically colder and more challenging for humans and robots.”
“If there were equatorial locations where ice might be found at shallow depth, then we’d have the best of both environments: warmer conditions for human exploration and still access to ice,” Lee said.