Ground Report | New Delhi: Reserves of water; For the past 20 years, Mars has been accompanied by the Mars Odyssey, which claims to be one of the longest-running missions on the red planet. Thanks to it, it has been possible to obtain an unprecedented spatial coverage that has mainly been used to locate the main hydrogen reservoirs.
Reserves of water
The funny thing is that there are only three potential hydrogen carriers in Martian soil and all of them imply the presence of a form of water. So far, the existence of water near the poles has been observed, but researchers are interested in looking for it in temperate zones as these are ideal places to install future bases.
In new work, different experts, including a Spaniard from the University of Murcia, have used the wide range of data obtained during these two decades to locate two areas of particular interest: Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes, respectively in the southern hemisphere and North. As they detail, seasonal variations in detected hydrogen levels suggest that significant amounts of water ice can be found a meter or so below the surface in these regions.
“Data from the Mars Odyssey neutron spectrometer showed signs of hydrogen below the surface of Mars from mid to equatorial latitudes, but we still had the challenge of figuring out whether it was water ice, which can easily be used as a resource,” noted Alemán Martínez, from the Lunar and Planetary Institute.
“This is where the seasonal variation provides an important clue. As the colder soil temperatures occur at the same time as the largest observed increase in hydrogen content, it suggests that water ice is forming in the shallow subsurface of these regions during the fall and winter seasons, and then sublimates into gas during the warm season of each hemisphere ”, added the expert.
To survive on Mars, astronauts would have to rely on resources already available on-site, as sending regular supplies across the 55 million kilometers between Earth and Mars at its closest point is not an option. Since liquid water is not available in the cold and arid environment of Mars, ice is a vital resource. Not only will the water be essential to sustain life for explorers or for the growth of plants and food, but it could also be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen for use as rocket fuel.
Two other regions are rich in hydrogen: Tharsis Montes and the Medusae Fossae Formation. However, these do not show seasonal variations and appear to be the least accessible forms of water.
“Definitely, these regions are also interesting for future missions,” said Martínez. “What we plan to do now for both is to study their mineralogy with other instruments in the hope of detecting water-altered rock types. These areas would be ideal candidates for robotic missions, including sample return missions since the ingredients for rocket fuel would also be available there ”, he concluded.