Signs of a modern glacier have been found near the equator on Mars, which could be a boon in the race to bring humans to the Red Planet.
Finding sizable supplies of accessible water is a key goal for teams working to send humans to Mars. Previous research has focused on higher latitudes, where conditions are more suitable for stable ice but also more challenging for humans (and robots).
However, recent discovery has not found ice at the equator, but rather what looks like a layer of salt covering it.
Researchers from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and the Mars Institute have detected what are known as light tone deposits (LTDs). These deposits, detected using data from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, are signs of what they call a ‘relict glacier’.
“What we have found is not ice, but rather a salt deposit with the detailed morphological characteristics of a glacier,” said lead author Dr. Pascal Lee, a SETI and Mars Institute planetary scientist. “What we think happened here is that salt formed on top of a glacier while retaining the shape of the ice below, down to details like rift fields and moraine bands.”
The team suggests that earlier volcanic activity in the region coated the glacier with ash, pumice and blocks of lava, which reacted with water ice to form a salty crust. Over time, erosion has worn away the volcanic layer, exposing salt deposits.
Similar situations have been observed on Earth. In the Altiplano, the Andean plateau, in South America, the ice of the glaciers has been protected from melting under a blanket of salts.
“The desire to land humans in a place where they can extract water ice from the ground has pushed mission planners to consider higher latitude sites,” Lee said.
“But these latter environments are often colder and more challenging for humans and robots. If there were equatorial locations where shallow ice could be found, then we would have the best of both environments: warmer conditions for human exploration and still access to ice.”
The potential glacier is believed to be around 3.7 miles long by 2.5 miles wide, with coordinates 7°33′ S, 93°14′ W, which on Earth is roughly where the Galapagos Islands are located. .
Both POT The US and China are working on manned missions to Mars. China is aiming to launch its first mission in 2033, while NASA is aiming for the late 2030s or early 2040s.
Last year the agency successfully launched its new Orion spacecraft, which he hopes will take his Artemis III team to the Moon in 2025, a first step toward establishing long-term habitation and a launching pad for interplanetary exploration. earlier this week presented his new spacesuit for the mission.
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