Detailed Mars water map shows where future explorers might land

A new map of subsurface water on Mars has just been released, and it reveals areas on the Red Planet where ice may be buried beneath the surface for future astronauts to use.

This week, the NASA-funded Subsurface Water Ice Mapping Project (SWIM) Issued It is the fourth set of maps, which the space agency is calling the “most detailed” since the project first began in 2017.

Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Odyssey, and Mars Global Surveyor, SWIM identifies potential locations of subsurface ice on Mars. For the latest SWIM map, scientists relied on two high-resolution cameras on board MRO, which have been orbiting Mars since 2006 in the search for water. As a result, the new map has a more detailed view of subsurface waters than previous iterations that relied on low-resolution imagers, radar, thermal mappers, and spectrometers.

An example of an impact crater showing ice on Mars.

An example of an impact crater showing ice on Mars.
image, NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Data from MRO’s Context Camera data were used to further refine maps of the Northern Hemisphere, while data from HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) provided the most detailed map of the ice extent near the equator for the first time. Was included to provide perspective. According to NASA it is possible. HiRISE also captured a 492-foot-wide (150-meter-wide) impact crater, which contained a “layer of ice hidden beneath the surface,” the space agency wrote.

The spacecraft discovered what appears to be frozen water in the subsurface in the mid-latitudes of Mars. This region on Mars is ideal for landing future missions because the atmosphere here is denser, making it easier for spacecraft to slow down when landing on the surface of Mars. The real favorite place for astronauts to land on Mars would be the southernmost tip of the northern mid-latitude region, where it is close enough to buried ice, but not too far from the equator that astronauts can enjoy slightly warmer weather. Can.

“If you send humans to Mars, you want to get them as close to the equator as possible,” Sidney Dow, SWIM project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “The less energy you have to spend on keeping astronauts and their support equipment warm, the more energy you have for other things they need.”

There is plenty of ice at the poles of Mars, but it is too cold for astronauts to survive long.

An illustration of astronauts working on the surface of Mars.

An illustration of astronauts working on the surface of Mars.
illustration, NASA

The reason NASA is more interested in ice found beneath the surface is that any liquid water found on Mars would be unstable. The atmosphere of Mars is so thin that water would evaporate instantly. Subsurface ice, on the other hand, is kept in a safe location where astronauts can drill ice cores to extract it.

The buried ice will be a valuable resource for future astronauts on Mars who can use it to make drinking water or rocket fuel. In turn, this will help them carry much less stuff to the surface of the red planet.

Scientists are also interested in knowing where subsurface ice is located on Mars to help them trace the planet’s climate throughout its history. “The amount of water ice found in mid-latitude locations on Mars is not uniform; “It appears that some areas have more than others, and no one really knows why,” Nathaniel Putzig, SWIM’s other co-lead at the Planetary Science Institute, said in a statement. “The latest SWIM map may lead to new hypotheses about why these variations occur.”

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