There is a lot of water ice on Mars


" … in late 2016, scientists using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) found a buried ice sheet at Mars’s mid-latitudes that holds about as much water as Lake Superior. But until Dundas’s study, published today in Science, scientists struggled to understand the extent and accessibility of Mars’s subsurface ice layers.

The eight sites featured in the new study include steep banks where, much like cutting into a cake, erosion has exposed layers of rock and ice that MRO could see from overhead. The bands of ice first appear between three and six feet underground, supporting the notion that Mars’s mid-latitudes periodically saw large snowfalls millions of years ago, when Mars was tilted on its axis at a steeper angle than it is today, says Dundas." National Geographic


I don't see any Martians in these pictures, but this greatly increases the chance that humans can colonize Mars.  The great majority of my forebears were among the colonizers of  the New World and so I suppose I have a natural inclination toward the prospect of human colonization of Barsoom.  We need to get some of us off this world so that our descendants can see Terra in the rear view mirror and think of this planet as the place where we began.  pl

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23 Responses to There is a lot of water ice on Mars

  1. jld says:

    “but this greatly increases the chance that humans can colonize Mars.”
    Water is only a minor detail, the hardest impediments are the lack of magnetic field to repel cosmic rays and the quasi absence of atmosphere, only about 1% of Earth, and this cannot be fixed because it would be lost again.
    Means living in pressurized radiation hardened shelters (no extensive agriculture either, plants need at least some CO2).
    I wish Elon Musk show us the way by being among the first colonists.

  2. Huckleberry says:

    Had we not peed away the past quarter century on boomer neoliberalism, social engineering and ZioCon wars, we would have been on Mars by now.
    I expect Trump to announce some sort of moneyshower on the aerospace industry this summer, as a run-up to the 2018 mid-terms. Hopefully this will include some Mars-language.

  3. Peter in Toronto says:

    The first colonizers in this new world will be genetically-engineered extremophile microbes which are oligotrophic, meaning they can feed on the sparse nutrients contained in just the soils and hard rock. The biomass they create will be needed to feed the other micro organisms that will be needed to catalyze the reactions necessary to thicken the atmosphere and then change its composition.
    People forget that the current atmosphere and its very pleasant composition is a by-product of cyanobacteria.

  4. ambrit says:

    No one said that it would be easy. Your forbears did the job with the technology at hand. Having a viable ecology helped. However, human technology is far in advance of the sixteen-hundreds now. Lack of easy ecological conditions can be offset by technology. Not even cutting edge either. The Mars Direct idea, (I know, my hobbyhorse,) uses century old technology to crack water ice into the propellants needed for the return trips; liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
    It will be done. I fear that it might get done by the Peoples Republic first. Imagine needing a Peoples Republic visa to go to Musk-bator. I shudder, but then, I’m a ’round eye.’
    Kaor! Colonel.

  5. Oilman2 says:

    It’s a multi-generational project, taking centuries to complete. Even if the magnetosphere issue could be overcome, it is a ‘practical vacuum’, with space being hard vacuum. Then we have the perchlorate problem in the soil…
    IF the perchlorates could be purged in some way, then dome dwelling might become feasible. Until the soils can be made more earth-like for earth-type plants, one would need to do hydroponics or aquaponics to avoid the perchlorates. Even then, the water would need to be purged of perchlorates.
    As a uniting goal, it is laudable and likely doable – politically, the USA doesn’t make it’s own rocket engines and cannot even make a decent fighter aircraft any longer, so I am NOT optimistic.
    But I could and would get on-board with it if there was some way to unite enough planetary resources to try.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is no technological fix to the complex elctromagnetic and gravitational fields’ interactions of Life at Earth’s surface. Elasto-electric mechanisms operate at inter cellular level as well as at organ level during morphogenesis.

  7. Clueless Joe says:

    As someone way wiser, smarter and more knowledgeable than me said once, Earth is our cradle, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.

  8. Degringolade says:

    I’m game, let’s go.
    Colonel, here’s a short story from one of my favorite SF writers.
    I think you might like it.

  9. charly says:

    If you want to colonize a planet it should be or very Earth like or not Earth-like at all. Mars is in between which makes it way to difficult. I have more fate in Ceres or the Moon. Even Venus would be easier

  10. Fred says:

    Gravity is going to be a problem. Can you imagine a Martian “coming home” to Earth? I wonder just what would happen to his bones/heart when that happened.

  11. EEngineer says:

    Energy. It always comes down to energy. Demonstration projects are always possible, but to scale them up you need economic feasibility. I.E. Apollo was a neat trick, but a moon or mars base would be so expensive it would need to pay for itself. What activity can be done profitably off planet? What energy resources are there to power it? What army of engineers built Batman’s toys? 😉

  12. Thirdeye says:

    Maybe the ultimate space exploration would be with AI-controlled systems that can adapt their functionality to local conditions, and maybe even develop future generations of AI-based technology. And if it’s really, really good AI it might develop the ability to ponder the nature of its origins.

  13. mongo says:

    It’s always entertaining to see the contrast between the engineers and the non-engineers here. It’s good to have dreams:
    The current reality, however, is a little closer to this:
    It took about a decade to complete the Apollo Program, and it will likely take at least a decade to repeat it. Elon Musk will not take us to Barsoom unless he has a plan that his grandchildren will want to see through to completion.
    What I see on the near horizon are programs to deal with climate change, which will be no less expensive or complex or time consuming.

  14. turcopolier says:

    yes. Engineers have little vision. pl

  15. ambrit says:

    The main energy expenditure of any off planet activity is going to occur in the lift to orbit phase. At least under the present technology regime.
    The big easy power off planet can be solar produced. No atmosphere to filter the sunlight. Also, off planet is perfect for atomic power, since there is no fragile environment to worry excessively about. Project Orion was originally, if I read correctly, designed for deep space use. On airless bodies, a berm and lightweight cover should suffice for human safety concerns relating to nuclear power modules.
    The real answer to the payoff for space pursuits is that the payoff will be the space pursuits themselves! Most of the off Earth activities should be aimed towards making off Earth living feasible.
    Finally, turn the question on its’ head. What will be the “costs” of not getting humans off of our Earth and ‘diversified’ out into the Great Beyond? Intellectual stagnation comes to mind. That is reason enough for a rational being.
    Here’s hoping that our children and others rise to the challenge.

  16. mongo says:

    Too true.
    We’re occupied by the task of fulfilling expectations, not setting them.

  17. turcopolier says:

    mongo et allus engineerii
    “chacun a son gout” as the old lady said when she kissed the cow. pl

  18. Oilman2 says:

    Colonel –
    Lumping all engineers into that one category may be convenient for you as a way to express your feelings regarding some of them, but it isn’t altogether true.
    The truth is that there are creative engineers but they do not fit in the corporate boxes designed to hold them. The result, for some, is they go their own way because they are not allowed to execute their dreams within the corporate environment. Instead, they are asked to do the impossible – improve performance without spending any money; make it go faster and use less fuel but you cannot change the design; make it last longer but you cannot change the basic materials; and on and on from management completely ignorant of how things work. And I now damn well you have seen this madness in the military- F35 ring a bell?
    That is why you have so very many engineers who cannot create – the system will not allow them ANY vision – it is quashed by the machinery of the corporation.
    I am one of those engineers hated by corporations, who simply could not abide being in the box, and there are more of us than people realize. I would likely have been scrubbed from military just because I suck at taking stupid orders…LOL

  19. turcopolier says:

    It was a joke. pl

  20. Mark Logan says:

    Clueless Joe,
    We can live in this cradle as long as it lasts. The problem is it is unlikely to last as long as our star. It is far more likely our cradle will encounter another big rock before then.
    I also believe the wisest COA is to accept the challenges of sub-light interstellar travel. Our physics present no viable alternative. Postponing action because we refuse to accept reality is the path of the fool.
    It’s unfortunate we are heavily programmed towards instant gratification. Plans that we have no chance of judging the success or failure of within a few lifetimes must be instantly dismissed. Plans such as ships assembled in space large enough to house many generations, embarking on a course where it can only be implied there may be another O2/Nitrogen water planet are dismissed out of hand.

  21. Oilman2 says:

    Well goddangit Colonel, use that /s willya?

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