NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has recently found a remarkable covert ice deposit under Utopia Planitia on the Red Planet that is expected to comprise as much water as Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes of North America.
With the help of Italian-built SHARAD (Shallow Radar) tool, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s team was able to evaluate that the deposit is almost 80 and 170 meters (260 and 560 feet) thick, and it lies below a coating of soil up to 10 meters (33 feet) deep. The outcomes are available in Geophysical Research Letters.
This massive ice deposit is the ideal target for exploration. Co-author of this research paper, Jack Holt, from the University of Texas, Austin, said in a statement:
This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice,
Utopia Planitia has a diameter of about 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles). Lead author Cassie Stuurman, also from the University of Texas, said:
This deposit probably formed as snowfall accumulating into an ice sheet mixed with dust during a period in Mars history when the planet's axis was more tilted than it is today,
Scientists suggest that during the Red Planet's mysterious past, Utopia Planitia may have been where the current North Pole is. Leslie Tamppari, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said:
We know early Mars had enough liquid water on the surface for rivers and lakes. Where did it go? Much of it left the planet from the top of the atmosphere. But there's also a large quantity that is now underground ice, and we want to keep learning more about that.