New study reveals water more plentiful on Mars than previously thought

A cross-section of Mars' underground ice shown in blue on this NASA image
A cross-section of Mars' underground ice shown in blue on this NASA image
By Chris Harris
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Astronauts visiting the Red Planet would just need a ‘bucket and shovel to have all the water they need’, say experts.


If humans ever get to explore Mars they will not have to look too far to quench their thirsts, a new study has suggested.

Researchers have found vast glaciers of ice just beneath the surface of the Red Planet, which continue to a depth of a hundred metres or more.

Experts already knew water ice existed just below Mars’ surface, but it had been unclear to what extent.

The new study, using satellite images from two orbiting spacecraft, suggests water ice lies under a thin covering over wide areas of the planet. It also identified eight locations where the ice is directly accessible.

The presence of a water source is likely to help with the planning of any human exploration missions to the planet.

“Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need,” said Shane Byrne, co-author of the report.

It is thought the discovery also holds clues to Mars’ past climate: the ice was likely deposited as snow long ago.

"There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars," said the study's lead author, Colin Dundas of the US Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. "What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3D view with more detail than ever before."

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