Underground ice 
                                                       exposed at one of
                                                                the Mar's steep slopes
                                                     appears here as
                                                          a bright blue band
APRIL 2018 29
ONE of the many problems standing in the way of humans establishing a colony on the Red Planet is obtaining a supply of fresh drinking
water. Now, researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) may have found a solution: there are at least eight sites where thick deposits of ice buried beneath the planet’s surface are exposed in faces of eroding slopes. The team located the sites using the HighResolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO. The ice was likely deposited as snow long ago and is thought to consist of relatively pure water ice. It was known from previous missions that
around a third of the surface of Mars contains
shallow ground ice as well as thicker deposits at the poles. However, the new findings show cliffs of ice more than 100m thick in detail. “The finding gives us surprising windows where
we can see right into these thick underground sheets of ice,” said Shane Byrne, who co-authored the report. “It’s like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what’s usually hidden beneath the ground. Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need.” Other than providing potential colonisers with
a supply of drinking water, the discovery may help us learn more about the long-term patterns in Mars’s climate that led to the ice’s formations


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