A Mars ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

From the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

Frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars lies about as much water as what’s in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes, a team of scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin has determined using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

mars-ice-water

This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in a part of Mars where such textures prompted researchers to check for buried ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They found about as much frozen water as the volume of Lake Superior. CREDIT NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region, in the mid-northern latitudes, with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument. Analyses of data from more than 600 overhead passes revealed a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico. The deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, with a composition that’s 50 to 85 percent water ice, mixed with dust or larger rocky particles.

At the latitude of this deposit — about halfway from the equator to the pole — water ice cannot persist on the surface of Mars today. It turns into water vapor in the planet’s thin, dry atmosphere. The Utopia deposit is shielded from the atmosphere by a soil covering estimated to be about 3 to 33 feet thick.

“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,” said Cassie Stuurman of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. She is the lead author of a report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The name Utopia Planitia translates loosely as the “plains of paradise.” The newly surveyed ice deposit spans latitudes from 39 to 49 degrees within the plains. It represents less than 1 percent of all known water ice on Mars, but it more than doubles the volume of thick, buried ice sheets known in the northern plains. Ice deposits close to the surface are being considered as a resource for astronauts.

mars-ice-map

Diagonal striping on this map of a portion of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region indicates the area where a large subsurface deposit rich in water ice was assessed using the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The deposit holds about as much water as Lake Superior. CREDIT NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Rome/ASI/PSI

“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,” said Jack Holt, a research professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, and a co-author of the Utopia paper who is a SHARAD co-investigator and has previously used radar to study Martian ice in buried glaciers and the polar caps.

The Utopian water is all frozen now. If there were a melted layer — which would be significant for the possibility of life on Mars — it would have been evident in the radar scans. However, some melting can’t be ruled out during different climate conditions when the planet’s axis was more tilted.

“Where water ice has been around for a long time, we just don’t know whether there could have been enough liquid water at some point for supporting microbial life,” Holt said.

Utopia Planitia is a basin with a diameter of about 2,050 miles, resulting from a major impact early in Mars’ history and subsequently filled. NASA sent the Viking 2 Lander to a site near the center of Utopia in 1976. The portion examined by Stuurman and colleagues lies southwest of that long-silent lander.

Use of the Italian-built SHARAD instrument for examining part of Utopia Planitia was prompted by Gordon Osinski at Western University in Ontario, Canada, a co-author of the study. For many years, he and other researchers have been intrigued by ground-surface patterns there such as polygonal cracking and rimless pits called scalloped depressions — “like someone took an ice cream scoop to the ground,” said Stuurman, who started this project while a student at Western.

In the Canadian Arctic, similar landforms are indicative of ground ice, Osinski noted, “but there was an outstanding question as to whether any ice was still present at the Martian Utopia or whether it had been lost over the millions of years since the formation of these polygons and depressions.”

The large volume of ice detected with SHARAD advances understanding about Mars’ history and identifies a possible resource for future use.

“It’s important to expand what we know about the distribution and quantity of Martian water,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “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. Other missions have been examining that process. But there’s also a large quantity that is now underground ice, and we want to keep learning more about that.”

Joe Levy of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a co-author of the new study, agreed.

“The ice deposits in Utopia Planitia aren’t just an exploration resource. They’re also one of the most accessible climate change records on Mars,” he said. “We don’t understand fully why ice has built up in some areas of the Martian surface and not in others. Sampling and using this ice with a future mission could help keep astronauts alive, while also helping them unlock the secrets of Martian ice ages.”

The original version of this release was posted on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory home page.

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144 thoughts on “A Mars ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

      • It really is sad how the misbehavior of the climate groups has wrecked the reputation of anyone associated with NASA.
        There is no evidence that the planetary data has been corrupted.

    • An Olympic swimming pool is 50 metres by 25 metres. Dunno what the depth spec is.

      Either eight or ten lanes. A standard lane is 2.5 metres wide.

      If say lane 9 was one mm longer than lane 2, because of one end being out of parallel with the other by one part in 17,500 or 3.274 mrad , then the lane 9 swimmer would have to go one mm further than a swimmer in lane 2 (say lanes 1 and 10 are empty to provide a space to the side wall wash).

      No big deal, except in the 1,500 metre race that is 30 laps, so the lane nine swimmer will be 30 mm later to touch than a lane 2 swimmer who was no faster.

      I don’t know how accurately an Olympic swimming pool size is specified, or how they hold it accurate enough to be fair.

      G

  1. That’s enough to establish a colony and some light industry until they can get hold of comet fragments or ice asteroids.

    • To Hell with that. As a Canadian I say it’s to be conserved for low-gravity hockey! A decent breakaway could last for weeks!

    • Travel to Mars is forever far away. It’s no the lack of water, oxygen, or food. It’s the radiation. It would take several hundred cubic meters of water to provide enough shielding for the trip. Then there’s the matter of shielding on the surface. Not having a significant magnetic field sucks.

      • If by “forever” you mean in your lifetime, and you are in your late 70’s, then I could accept your statement. But otherwise…no.

        “Everything is theoretically impossible, until someone does it.” – Robert Heinlein

      • Paul, haven’t you heard a scientist tells us we have only 10 years left. Not sure how humans can change atmospheric pressure on Mars on a planetary scale to suit humans without wearing a pressure suit in that time let alone get there. In any case, Mars will be consumed, like Earth, by the sun when it starts to turn in to a red giant.

      • Sorry. Former JPLer here, so I’m extremely biased (and objective) when it comes to manned space exploration. We have a long, long way to go before we’re able to get humans safely to Mars with enough resources to be productive.

      • Martin, why pee on everyone’s cornflakes? We’ll get to Mars on unicorn pharts and goodwill. Cookies and crayons will once again rule the day. Snowflakes will find safe spaces on Mars and “the world will be as one”.

        Mars is our manifest destiny. Africans will get there first, followed by Native Americans, who will collectively intercede with Gaia’s little brother to make a nurturing home for humanity under a cost plus contract with SpaceX. Eon Musk will be declared Emperor of Mars and Deja Thoris will be his willing and devoted consort.

        Stop being so negative.

      • You don’t need to shield the entire craft. Just a safe area for astronauts to retreat to during solar storms.

      • Martin, most of the supplies will be sent ahead. The crew module just has to keep the astronauts alive until they get there.

      • I’m not cranky. Well, not very cranky. I’m just a realist. Current human spaceflight is really centered around simply understanding a few effects of spaceflight on human cargo. It’s very embryonic. It’s enormously expensive.

        Meanwhile, robotic missions are dramatically expanding our understanding in many disciplines at a fraction of the cost. It’s a new golden age of discovery. An age that I predict is far from over.

        Thank you for reminding me about my meds. You have that in common with my wife.

      • Yes, you can provide shielding for the astronauts (polyethylene works well too) and the supplies will be sent on ahead without any shielding. All this is nice until you ask where is all that energy going that was bombarding the spacecraft as they traversed the unprotected regions. The short answer is that it gets absorbed by the vehicles and their cargo until it can re-radiate it away. Metals have a nasty habit of absorbing neutrons and remaining “hot”. If we ever get back to the moon our visits to the abandoned Apollo instruments and structures will be necessarily short as they will have become rather “hot” radioactively.
        Like the primordial creatures that first ventured beyond their watery realms into the nasty exposed environments on land with its arid desiccation and temperature extremes caused by radiation, we are wholly unprepared to venture beyond our cocoon without some serious changes.

      • Patrick MJD
        November 27, 2016 at 4:36 am

        Mars probably won’t be engulfed by a red giant sun, but it will be blasted and baked:

        http://www.universetoday.com/12648/will-earth-survive-when-the-sun-becomes-a-red-giant/

        The Sun’s red giant habitable zone will extend from 49.4 to 71.4 AU, ie far beyond the present orbit of Neptune, which averages a distance of 30,1 AU from the Sun. Pluto’s highly elliptical orbit runs from 29 to 49 AU.

        But whoever or whatever sentient beings might exist then are in luck, since the outer Kuiper Belt and inner Oort Cloud will be festooned with now watery, formerly icy, bodies suitable as prime real estate.

      • Well Bartleby, you got one thing correct.

        Eon Musk will likely smell for a long time, so long as he can swill at the public trough.

        I have no problem with anybody who wants to go to mars on their own nickel.

        The mars fetish is just another crutch for those who can’t deal with reality. If it isn’t religion or space aliens who are going to save humans from their self destructive ways; it might as well be a cruise to mars.

        Earth’s and man’s problems will be solved by humans here on earth or we will become just another failed experiment in Mother Gaia’s search for survival longevity.

        So far, there is not a shred of evidence that so called intelligence is any better than just being big and mean and ugly like the dinosaurs who survived for 165 million years or so.
        Humans may not ever make it to 100,000 years.
        Well unless we get real, and stop kidding ourselves how great we are.

        G

    • Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch
      Ding-dong, the wicked witch is dead
      Wake up, you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed
      Wake up, the wicked witch is dead!
      She’s gone where the goblins go below, below, below, yo ho
      Let’s open up and sing, and ring the bells out
      Ding-dong! the…

      • I’m constantly surprised how many people are willing to praise a man who has murdered 10’s of thousands of people. Just because he claimed to be implementing communism, all evil is forgiven.

    • Castro, the only guy I know who actively tried to start a nuclear war with the United States. Read the book “One Hell of a Gamble” for details. Had the decision been left to Castro, he would have nuked the U.S. and killed tens of millions of innocent people, for no good reason. The man was insane. His Soviet masters said as much. Good riddance.

      • Phil, there were twenty or so IRBMs in Cuba, under the control of the local Soviet commander. Positive control methods were not used by either the US or the Soviets then, so the local commander could have ordered the launch.

      • What is scary is up here in Canada Trudeau Jr. our present Prime Minister admired the murderous dictator. Jr. dad Trudeau Sr. also admired Castro and was friends with him. Jr. has also stated he admires the Chinese government and how they get things done. This is what we are dealing with up here. What is even scarier is the people that elected him.

      • Fortunately, the Soviets didn’t actually give their little puppet sadist access to the nukes they had brought.

      • “He would have nuked the US? What with? Cuban nuclear tipped cruise missiles?”

        You ought to read the book, Phil. Then you would know.

        The Soviets had nukes sitting in Cuba (that’s what the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about), and Castro insisted to the Soviets that they launch those missiles at the United States.

        The Soviets said Castro had taken leave of his senses, and refused to go along with him. That’s why I say if it had been up to Castro, the U.S. would have been nuked, and it would have been. Castro was delusional enough to have used them if he had the power. Which he did not. The Soviets were always in control of their nukes. And it’s a damn good thing, too.

    • Lat: Add ” . . who was educated at Harvard and became a billionaire following the revolution” after his name. Like Mao. Just another another judge, jury, lawmaker thug at the apex.

    • Does this mean we can once again smoke cigars rolled on the thighs of Cuban women? I just quit smoking! What treachery is this! What perverse and hateful God would perpetrate such a travesty on me! What did I do to deserve this foul treatment!?

      I’ll cast myself from the nearest cliff. Oh, the horror.

  2. ““The ice deposits in Utopia Planitia aren’t just an exploration resource.They’re also one of the most accessible climate change records on Mars,” he said.”

    So, on Mars, he is saying Global Warming (climate change) caused the water ice to form.

  3. One of the problems on Mars is that it isn’t shielded from cosmic rays. Water makes a pretty good shield. This water source is a good thing for human exploration from a couple of standpoints.

    • Mars regolith can also serve as radiation shielding, and there’s plenty of that.

      The problem with living on the surface of Mars is the low gravity. Of course, we don’t know just now, how big a problem that would be to longterm human health, but I have to think that anything less than Earth-normal, is going to be detrimental to human health in some way. But possibly not a game breaker. Time will tell.

      • Low gravity and zero gravity are really not in the same category when looking at medical/biological effects. Zero g has an effect on human body fairly rapidly, from what empirical data we have been able to collect. The effects of low gravity are theorized to come over a much longer period and not to be as severe. All things that, here in 2016, we should have a lot more real time data for. We have pissed away 25 years in which we should have been building and learning.

      • ““Mars regolith…”

        Translation: dirt.”

        More or less, but if I had said dirt, then someone would have complained that I didn’t use regolith. :)

      • 2hotel9,

        Yes, we have wasted 25 years, although we have gotten some worthwhile experience and knowledge from the space station, although at a huge, unecessary cost.

        The space station project was a big, complicated, expensive diversion that wasn’t necessary. This is what we have wasted most of our time on.

        We could have had practically the same thing in orbit for a tenth the cost and done it with a couple of launches over a short period of time versus dozens of launches over a decade, if our objective was to do it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

        Those were not the goals of the NASA bureaucracy. Their goal was to maximize the use of the space shuttle and as part of that, to build a space station that required huge numbers of space shuttle launches to complete, and which would keep the program going for decades. They succeeded on all counts in their objectives. A bureaucratic space program tailor-made to suit the needs of the bureaucracy.

        Let’s not do that again on our future projects. It doesn’t need to cost $100 billion dollars to build a Moonbase. Fortunately, the NASA bureaucracy is not the only organization that can do these types of things in space now. Competition and private enterprise have been introduced into the process, and this will keep prices down. But we still need to keep a tight reign on the NASA bureaucracy because their tendency is to waste money. A good NASA leader would go a long way toward changing this. Let’s hope we get one in the new administration.

      • I have a brother and several friends who have been involved with NASA through working for contractors over the years, wasting money is a yuge understatement. Instead of going in Army in ’79 should have been going into training program for orbital construction. Oh, well. We had the lead and threw it away, all because our “leaders” were afraid of volunteers losing their lives, the same leaders who merrily throw away the lives of volunteers in meatgrinder operations in Mid East, Asia and Africa. Go figure.

    • Water can in gravity well create pressure. 10 meter depth makes 1 atm of pressure on Earth. On 1/3rd Earth of gravity, Mars 10 meters depth of water is 14.7 pi divided by 3 is 4.9 psi of pressure. In any pressure less than 2.5 psi, one needs a pressure suit to breath air. So at 5 meter depth of water on Mars one needs pressure/spacesuit to breath, but below 5 meter in depth one could use scuba gear to breath on Mars. Or if in diving bell +5 meter of it’s bottom of bell below water one breath the air which higher than 2.5 psi. Or had say 6 meter tall diving bell with top at the surface and open at bottom 6 meters below the water, and you can breath that air- though the air would need a high concentration of oxygen.

      • gbaikie I can’t say I checked your maths, but I can say that the oceans on Earth are much more accessible than the submartian ice deposits of out 4th planet and we haven’t really explored them yet.

        Mars is a current “sexy” idea. he Pacific Ocean is a whole lot more habitable and a lot easier to get to.

      • re:
        “gbaikie I can’t say I checked your maths, but I can say that the oceans on Earth are much more accessible than the submartian ice deposits of out 4th planet and we haven’t really explored them yet.

        Mars is a current “sexy” idea. he Pacific Ocean is a whole lot more habitable and a lot easier to get to.”

        I am not particularly interested in Martian ice, but vast amounts of ice deposits on Mars indicates possibility of vast amounts of liquid ground water- which may be artisan or not requiring much energy to pump to the surface. Because Mars has lower gravity, so the energy requirement is 1/3rd of Earth per meter depth which required to be pumped- or one can have economical water well 3 times deeper on Mars as compared to Earth. And though Earth is more geological active, temperature increase per depth like it does on Earth- or “ice” couple miles under surface Mars would probably not be ice, but instead it would be water, though one would want geological “hotspots” which shallower depth which is warmer than normal.
        Anyhow, I think Mars needs to explored before settlements could considered as viable option. One thing to explore for would cheaper ways of getting large amounts of water at low cost- so that say settler would only need to pay something like 10 times the cost of water than typical cost on Earth- which is $1 to $10 per ton, so Mars $10 to $100 per ton.
        With Earth, the 7 billion people are using “9,087 billion cubic meters of water per year”- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/graphic-science-how-much-water-nations-consume/
        So for there to be future for Mars settlement one need known access to quantities roughly around 1 million cubic meters per year which could be obtained relatively cheaply.
        Anyhow, Mars is dry and cold desert planet, but I think it’s possible their is more freshwater as groundwater on Mars than freshwater on Earth. Most water on Earth is saltwater and most freshwater is
        glacial ice, so if exclude glacial ice [which we aren’t using] and sea water, I think Mars could have more freshwater than Earth. Of course it’s possible most water on Mars could also be saltwater, brime or water which is polluted in some fashion.
        Specifically re: Pacific Ocean is a whole lot more habitable and a lot easier to get to.
        A major problem of Mars is the problem of leaving Earth- a benefit of Mars is much easier to leave than Earth. So if want access to space environment, Mars is better place than Earth. If want food in space environment, Mars probably is better place to grow it. Mars has 28 times more CO2 in it’s atmosphere per square meter than Earth has in it’s atmosphere- so lots of plant food. Mars has plenty of sunlight for farming needs. In terms of farming, it’s polar region is a better place for farming- long growing season with long daylight hours- of course not good in winter. But such farming require water, this hasn’t been explored to determine whether it’s accessible.
        Anyhow I think it would good to develop the Pacific Ocean so that people could live on it. And mostly I am fan of exploring the Moon, mining lunar water to make rocket fuel- which also would another factor of helping Mars be more accessible for future Mars settlements. So I would suggest exploring the Moon to find commerical minable water in lunar polar regions, and then exploring Mars to determine if it’s viable for future settlement- say within 50 years from now. In terms settlements in Pacific, I would say starting with ocean settlement on continental shelves- so selling property on continental shelves would need to occur.
        But it’s seems that with Lefties and UN we could be having settlements on Mars before settlements in the Pacific.

  4. I am immediately starting a campaign to stop the rape of Mars’s precious planetary fluids! We must leave that water where it is for the benefit of future generations. No drilling on Mars!!!

    Small donations from little people can be sent to the usual address. Donations of more than $1m will be accepted in person at our designated headquarters in St Tropez. (In winter, Aspen)

  5. I bet Elon Musk is happy to hear about the water on Mars. It would certainly be a bonus to anyone who is planning on exploiting the resources of Mars.

    But as far as humans living permanently on Mars, I don’t see that happening, other than for short stays to explore and discover.

    I think Musk is making a mistake concentrating on establishing a colony on Mars at this time. First, he should set up the infrastructure that will enable this Mars colony by constructing habitats in Mars orbit that will protect humans from lethal space radiation, and zero gravity. Ignoring these two necessities for life off the Earth will only lead to a lot of problems.

    If you want reasons to put human safety first, all you have to do is watch the Mars series currently airing on the National Geographic channel, where they lay out every health problem associated with Musk’s plan to go to Mars, like 200 times the radiation absorption, and loss of ten percent of your bodily calcium, and that’s just on the seven-month flight to reach Mars.

    And I sit there and watch it and ask myself, why do they ignore the health hazards, when they are the most serious obstacles to all they want to do in space, and on top of that, the hazards can be fixed with simple actions like providing sufficient radiation shielding for human habitat modules and providing artififical gravity for them too, by using centrifugal force while in orbit.

    The first thing Musk should do at Mars is put two habitat modules in orbit, connect them with a mile-long cable, and then cause these two modules to revolve around their center at a speed of one revolution per minute (the same speed as the second hand on a clock) and that generates the equivalent of one Earth gravity inside the habitats.

    Then Musk needs to find some water or other material on Phobos and put a sufficient coating on the habitat modules to reduce the radiations levels to those encountered on Earth’s surface. A coating of water ice a meter thick would satisfy this demand.

    Once Musk is established in orbit like this, then he can set about landing things on Mars, and he has backup just a short distance away if things go wrong down there. He can explore Mars and keep his people healthy by only leaving them on the Red Planet for short periods of time, interspersed with safe periods on the orbiting habitats. He can use Martian water to power his trips back and forth to orbit.

    Meanwhile, NASA should be building the same kind of infrastructure in the Earth/Moon system. One around the Earth and one around the Moon, and a Moon base to supply the water ice needed for this type of development.

    Once a safe, comfortable place is provided in orbit, everyone will be clamoring to go. Hotel magnates will be vying with each other to see who can put their orbital hotel in orbit first.

    It all starts with ensuring that travelers in space are safe from the dangers that surround them. Humans need Earth gravity and very small doses of radiation to flourish. Those necessities can be provided but they don’t seem to be the focus of Musk’s Mars mission or U.S. space planning and I think it is very shortsighted.

    Is Musk in a race, or does he want to do it properly? That’s my question.

    Even if he does it properly, he can still win the race, imo. Since he is the only one talking about heading to Mars right now, so he’s in the driver’s seat.

    Let’s take it step by step, Elon. Human safety has to be the priority if you goal is to get humans off the Earth permanently.

    • Why do you assume that Musk has no plans on how to tackle the radiation problem? Just because he has not revealed details on the subject does not mean he is ignorant of the challenges or is ignoring the dangers. Given his accomplishments up to now, one would have to objectively judge him as a pretty smart guy. The radiation issue is just one of many thousands of problems that must be solved in order to establish a Mars colony, and I’m sure he is consulting with just as many specialists to address each one.

      • “Why do you assume that Musk has no plans on how to tackle the radiation problem?” Because hucksters never have a complete plan for anything, other than separating shekels from the marks.

      • “Why do you assume that Musk has no plans on how to tackle the radiation problem?”

        I’m sure he does have a plan to tackle radiation once his people are on Mars. Covering the habitats with regolith or putting habitats inside underground tunnels will do the trick. That’s been part of every plan.

        But I have seen no proposal from anyone to try to mitigate the dangers of radiation and zero-G, while actually in space. This concept seems to have completely slipped the minds of the powers-that-be.

      • Given his accomplishments up to now, one would have to objectively judge him as a pretty smart guy.

        !!??? So far? The “inventor” of PayPal? Can you possibly be serious? A man who’s losing money at epic rates with his loony electric car company, which will be bankrupt withing 12 months, and a fellow who’s managed to blow up 3 rockets on launch and failed to recover 5?

        Yep. Elon the rocket boy who made his money on an internet payment platform. Yep.

    • Here’s another reason why we need to make sure we implement Earth-normal artificial “gravity” for our people living in space:

      https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1038.html#overview

      Vision Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) – 11.22.16

      ISS Science for Everyone

      The Vision Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) project examined the effect of long-term exposure to microgravity on the structure of the eye along with change in distance and near vision of crew members before and after they returned to Earth.

      I can see (less) clearly now. Many astronauts experience poorer vision after flight, some even for years after. A number of studies have looked for causes and distinct physical changes in the eye itself have been found. MRI scans suggest that pressure changes in the brain and spinal fluid caused by weightlessness may be partly to blame.”

      end excerpt

  6. The tilt of Mars axis (obliquity) has varied chaotically over the last few billion years. Up to ~47 degs, which would have exposed its poles to more sustained heating and cooling extremes than its current obliquity. Such water redistribution would change the rotational inertia, leading to more unpredictable obliquity change behavior. Today, everything seems “normal” as these events happen over geologic time scales.
    And yet here on Earth, climate scientists study a far more complex system, the science is settled on the catastrophic effect of a trace gas on climate.

  7. Lol. Utopia doesn’t mean paradise. It means “no place.” As in, you can’t get there from here.

      • Yes but in Greek it literally means “no place.” And as has been demonstrated over and over again in reality (as opposed to fiction), a eutopia is impossible, always instead breaking down into tyranny, oppression, and poverty. In other words, you can’t get there from here.

        We’re well past the time where the word in English should’ve reverted back to its original meaning.

  8. 1 to 10m of dirt cover and this has prevented the evaporation/sublimation of water into a very low pressure atmosphere? Does this bother anyone else here? I hope Nasa still has some older trained physicists and geologists on their payroll. They mentioned climate change so there is obviously some invasion of a virus from a lobotomized education source.

    • Gary, I agree that the low pressure atmosphere has been overlooked. Is there even enough pressure (or gravity) on Mars to hold liquid water and keep it from going into space?

      • I posed this question to NASA once, arguing that water could feasibly be found in the liquid phase as atmospheric pressure due to storm activity or at the bottom of the Valles Marineris, with a depth of 10km, if extrapolated from Mars datum and STP, which is below the triple point of water would be sufficiently elevated for liquid water and in particular, concentrated brines. They agreed and the evidence of water flow appears compelling.

  9. This is fun stuff..
    Soon … maybe … we will find enough evidence that there was indeed life on Mars..

    May 26, 2016
    NASA Radar Finds Ice Age Record in Mars’ Polar Cap
    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-mars-orbiters-reveal-seasonal-dust-storm-pattern

    …””Mars has bright polar caps of ice that are easily visible from telescopes on Earth. A seasonal cover of carbon-dioxide ice and snow is observed to advance and retreat over the poles during the Martian year. During summertime in the planet’s north, the remaining northern polar cap is all water ice; the southern cap is water ice as well, but remains covered by a relatively thin layer of carbon dioxide ice even in southern summertime.

    But Mars also undergoes variations in its tilt and the shape of its orbit over hundreds of thousands of years. These changes cause substantial shifts in the planet’s climate, including ice ages. Earth has similar, but less variable, phases called Milankovitch cycles.”””…

    LAYER CAKE. Climatic cycles of ice and dust built the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year — and then whittled down their size when the climate changed. Here we are looking at the head of Chasma Boreale, a canyon that reaches 570 kilometers (350 miles) into the north polar cap. Canyon walls rise about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above the floor. Where the edge of the ice cap has retreated, sheets of sand are emerging that accumulated during earlier ice-free climatic cycles. Winds blowing off the ice have pushed loose sand into dunes, then driven them down-canyon in a westward direction, toward our viewpoint. (A 9 MB version of the image is available.) Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk (vertical exaggeration 2.5x).

    To explore this feature in greater depth, check out Dunes and Ice in Chasma Boreale.

  10. They’re also one of the most accessible climate change records on Mars,” he said. – He had to bring that into it, now didn’t he?? Next thing you know, the Escathological Cargo Cult of the CAGW will blame Mars on fossil fuels.

  11. Maybe the most significant part of this discovery is its closeness to the equator. Previously known large scale deposits were closer to the poles, which make them more difficult for a spacecraft to reach, and more importantly, much more difficult to re-obtain orbit.

  12. Yes, yes …………….. BUT how many “Hiroshima Bombs” worth of energy would it take to melt it?

    s/

  13. If we could just introduce some of that good old Man-Made Global Warming on Mars, we could soon see a pretty decent boating venue in the middle of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region.

    • “If we could just introduce some of that good old Man-Made Global Warming on Mars”

      That is being suggested as a method for terraforming Mars by some of those planning to go there, like Dr. Robert Zubrin, a prominent advocate of humans to Mars.

      Zubrin seemed to think that pumping more CO2 into Mars’ atmosphere would cause it to thicken up and heat up. I’m not sure why he thinks that way, since we are pumping CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere and it is not heating up here. Or, if it is, it is so small it is undetectable, so I don’t know how much it would help Mars’s climate.

      • ..IIRC, Mars simply does not have enough gravity to hold an atmosphere and has a very low magnetic field to protect life !!

      • Kim Stanley Robinson wrote ‘Red Mars’, ‘Green Mars’, ‘Blue Mars’. The key he appeared to postulate was the warming of the biosphere, using nuclear powered heat generators. Liberate the water and restart the hydrological cycle, plant lichens and conifers, and hey prestissimo!

      • I lean towards the theory that much of Mars’ water is floating around in the heliosphere along with part of its NH landmass as asteroids. returning that water to the atmosphere that’s left might increase the greenhouse.

      • More of any gas will increase the temperature on Mars, as the atmosphere thickens.
        Since Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field. The process of adding gas to the atmosphere will have to continue as gas will be continually lost to space.

  14. This is all well and good, problem is humans need to establish ourselves in orbital habitats and build up industry and agriculture FIRST. No way we are going to use surface launch technology to build colonies on anything till that is accomplished. Elon and others keep trotting out “colonies on Mars!!!!” to get publicity, when they should be pushing for sustained orbital habitat and industry construction. This is the point that really irks me with Musk et al. They are essentially taking a horse and wagon out onto a 12 lane interstate, shooting the horse in the head, then shouting “Everyone hop in the wagon, we is agoin’ ta the beach!”

    • First, bring back all that water to Lake Suprior where it belongs. Then tell us what to do with that one millionth water on Earth is useful to?

    • Nah, Earth orbit is a dead end. Best chooses are the Belt or Mars.
      Earth orbit everything has to be sent up through a gravity well. Sure build a industry but were are the materials you well use to build said industry? Take your pick earth mars moon or the belt. Best to build the infrastructure near the raw material sources. Mr Trump seems to favor the belt. Its probably the best bet. Plenty of easily accessible raw materials to feed into 3D printers. Not as good (or bad) as von neumann machines but should do the trick. For Mars we need to send a probe, that can retrieve a couple hundred pounds of Martian dirt. Set up a lab on the space station and see what we need to add to the dirt to get things to grow. Also involve some of our GMO seed Company’s to create low gravity crops.

      michael

      • “Best to build the infrastructure near the raw material sources.”

        The best, closest material source we have is the Moon. The Moon has the water we need to build space infrastructure. One of our first steps should be to establish a base on the Moon in order to exploit these resources for our space development program.

      • I did not say anything about “earth orbit”, the fact is you have to do this in stages. Near Earth first. Accessing material in the Asteroid Belt would be one of the necessary tasks, that and Lunar surface. Simple fact is we have to get OUT THERE first, and that requires orbital habitats and industry. Focusing on getting to Mars first is just stupid.

      • ..I agree with 2hotel9, the first step, should be a habitat in a Geostationary orbit, much like the ISS, but that is modular, so it’s size can indefinitely increase….

      • Problem with ISS design is it can never be converted into a canister/drum style station and rotated for simulated gravity. As a work/industrial plan it is fine, expandable in every direction and easily docked with. A major problem for rotating objects will be docking with them. Just one of the many things I am sure we can figure out, given the opportunity.

      • We don’t need to bring everything from Earth surface, even if we are built in Earth orbit. We can either use rail guns to launch from the Moon, or we can use rockets to guide asteroids into earth orbit.

    • “This is all well and good, problem is humans need to establish ourselves in orbital habitats and build up industry and agriculture FIRST. No way we are going to use surface launch technology to build colonies on anything till that is accomplished. Elon and others keep trotting out “colonies on Mars!!!!” to get publicity, when they should be pushing for sustained orbital habitat and industry construction.”

      You are absolutely right 2hotel9. Mars colonies are a sideshow deflecting us from what we should be doing.

      I previously posted in this thread about 8 hours ago, on this exact same subject but it has never shown up I discussed what was needed for basic infrastructure in space, and suggested that a Mars base wait until an orbital base is established in Mars orbit.

      I suggested that the very first thing to be done in orbit is to become capable of building human habitats that will house humans safely in orbit, protecting them from lethal radiation and zero gravity. This can be done by coating habitats with a meter-thick covering of water ice, and use centrifugal force to provide Earth-equivalent gravity inside the habitats.

      One we have a safe, healthy place for humans to stay in space, then we can build those same kinds of habitats and use them anywhere we want to go, including using them as safe interplanetary transportation.

      For example, traveling to Mars exposes a human to 200 times the normal radiation dose, and zero-G will leach 10 percent of a person’s calcium out of their body. And this is just during the seven month trip to Mars. We should be protecting humans on these journeys and we can if we decide to do so. Why expose humans to dangers when it is not necessary?

      What about it “Guardians of the website”, do you know what happened to the post I tried to post eight hours ago in this thread?

      • I have had that happen before, using wordpress and disqus. It got to the point a couple of years ago that I copied anything I wrote before hitting post tab. Disqus is especially bad.

        Yeah, we got to get into orbit and building. I think people would, seeing the huge difficulties with building a colony on a hostile planetary surface, embrace expanding into the rest of the solar system using orbital habitats. Radiation exposure and zero G effects on the human body are issues we are already dealing with, to a degree. Getting out there in a major way is what we need to be working on much more than we are or have been.

      • ..Hmmm, Weird TA, I posted AFTER you, but yours is only showing on my screen now ? Too many beer for me ? You said what i said above, but much more Eloquently…Cheers !

      • My missing post finally appeared. It’s upthread a little bit.

        I hardly ever have trouble posting here. I was thinking my mentioning of the name of the SpaceX vehicle owner was what got me flagged.

      • TA, “a meter-thick covering of water ice”? That’s a whole bunch of mass to boost and it doesn’t scale well. There are several projects that have demonstrated effective EM shields for high orbit, I think they’re much more practical. See http://www.islandone.org/Settlements/MagShield.html for examples.

        The sequence of infrastructure doesn’t start with a Elonesque wild leap off the precipice for Mars, I agree with you 100% there. First, geostationary high orbit. Next a lunar colony with heavy manufacturing and mining capability. Then the construction of a Earth/Mars Aldrin cycle ship. Followed by the construction of a Mars synchronous orbital station. Then we develop he ability to mine the asteroid belt for water.

        After that, there will be a very long time spent terraforming Mars itself. No one would want to be on Mars’ surface during terraforming, which will involve deliberately crashing asteroids on the surface of the planet. Not a place anyone would want to be close to while the work is in progress. Well after and atmosphere is established, colonization can begin.

        None of this will happen in the next 20 years. Almost none will happen in the next 50 years. Terraforming Mars is an engineering project the likes of which humanity has never even gotten close to accomplishing.

      • TA: Thankfully, Trump is a real estate developer. If anyone knows how to develop Mars, and is also in a position to influence NASA, it’s Trump. We may have serendipity in play this time. Pure dumb luck.

        It could be Trump doesn’t have the vision to take on a project of that magnitude, but it’s certain (based on previously made public statements) that Musk doesn’t.

      • Bartleby November 27, 2016 at 11:33 pm wrote: “TA, “a meter-thick covering of water ice”? That’s a whole bunch of mass to boost and it doesn’t scale well.”

        You are correct, it is a lot of mass but if we boost it up from the surface of the Moon it will cost a lot less. The Moon can also supply the propellants for our rockets, and of course, there is the electromagnetic launcher we can use to hurl ice into orbit to be picked up by orbital transfer vehicles and moved to the proper location. That should be our basic construction scenario within the Earth/Moon system.

        Bartleby: “There are several projects that have demonstrated effective EM shields for high orbit, I think they’re much more practical. See http://www.islandone.org/Settlements/MagShield.html for examples.”

        Thanks for that link. The author, Geoffrey A. Landis, is a very smart man. You say there are several successful demonstrations of this technolgy? I would be very interested in seeing those. Electromagnetic would be less massive than ice, that’s for sure. My only hesitation is that as far as I know, this is unproven technology, whereas Ice is here and now. :) Would love to have a less massive alternative. That would really make things a whole lot simpler.

      • Bartleby wrote: “The sequence of infrastructure doesn’t start with a Elonesque wild leap off the precipice for Mars, I agree with you 100% there. First, geostationary high orbit. Next a lunar colony with heavy manufacturing and mining capability. Then the construction of a Earth/Mars Aldrin cycle ship. Followed by the construction of a Mars synchronous orbital station. Then we develop he ability to mine the asteroid belt for water.”

        I think we need the Moonbase pretty early in the equation. It can supply all the propellants we need in Earth/Moon orbits. It’s our gas station which we need to do our work. The alternative is to lift everything from Earth.

        And we need an orbital transfer vehicle as our next hardware development. Can’t do anything meaningful in orbit without an orbital transfer vehicle. NASA killed development on the orbital transfer vehicle and we need to get this restarted under the Trump administration and put it on the fast track.

        You mentioned the “Aldrin Cycler”. Don’t you love how elegant this concept is! Buzz Aldrin should be named NASA administrator, if he would take the job. If not, he ought to be the NASA administrators right-hand man. He ought to call Buzz every day asking for his advice.

        Here’s a link to the Aldrin Cycler. You have to look at it.

        http://buzzaldrin.com/space-vision/rocket_science/aldrin-mars-cycler/

      • The only thing that should be lifted from Earth are people and any high tech equipment that we aren’t yet prepared to make either in orbit or on the Moon.

    • No orbital or surface habitat is not what I would do, An initial camp has to be subsurface that might be by identifying a deep cavern, Land a couple of submarine sized nuke plants,:-) . Use robotic mining equipment and explosives to dig the habitat from orbit and paint the inside with a sealer (plastic foam). Then Land, install the airlock, – pressurize with liquid air from earth. Set up your Nuke powered air factory, and lighting and initiate the food growing station. Given the presence of water, you only need electricity from the nuke plants to make water and oxygen. you will need to find a nitrogen source (Nitrates)

      • Oddly Marcus I considered that though subs are designed to have the high pressure on the outside. It’s not so silly really other than the problems of getting one into space and deorbiting it safely at the other end – The construction is a known quantity.
        However long-term you still need an underground facility in order to smooth out the temperature and provide insulation from both radiation and temperature given the thin atmosphere.

      • Bob the problem isn’t getting an Ohio to Mars; that’s relatively easy.

        The problem is making Mars, as an entire planet, both habitable and attractive for humans. That’s going to take some serious work. We won’t want to have people on the surface of Mars while we’re doing it. Consider the effect of the Chicxulub asteroid on Earth; the entire ecosystem was effectively wiped off the face of the planet. End of dinosaurs.

        Terraforming Mars will be very much like that, but it will be planned. We’ll find water bearing asteroids and bump them into a collision course with Mars until we’ve bumped enough to make oceans. That’s a lot of asteroids, a lot of seismic “activity” and a whole bunch of stress and uncertainty for anyone on Mars busy trying to raise potatoes. Putting the cart before the horse so to speak.

        The right way to do it is to drop the big rocks on Mars before putting any people there.

  15. Utopia Planitia might be a lake today if it had not been for the quick thinking of Nadia, who had the idea to use explosives to bring the cliff down upon the Arena station, sealing the leaking (uncapped) Arena well.

    “If we don’t cap it,” Angela said with a certain morbid enthusiasm, “it’ll look like when the Atlantic first broke through the Straits of Gibraltar and flooded the Mediterranean basin. That was a waterfall that lasted ten thousand years.”

    That will make sense to you when you have read [Red,Blue,Green] Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.

  16. Olympic swimming pools worth? I want to know the mass in African elephant units (for a while the Australian Broadcasting Commission aka Always Been Communist was keen on this unit)

      • ..LOL…Stupid movie plot, even stupider ending..I could spend hours scientifically ripping that junk apart..But hey, it’s Hollow wood ! Arnold should have stuck with his Terminator ! .IMHO…

      • LMAO!!

        Or send Watney over to “science the hell out of it”. LOL!

        I loved the Martian…great story!

        Ok here is my take on Mars colonization. We need to figure out HOW to live first. Which means, we need more than near Earth orbit (which NASA and ISS have supplied ample data for us to move forward), we need to get back to the Moon and start building infrastructure there…either on the surface or surrounding. Then we build a way station, then we build in orbit around Mars and finally the surface.

        If you think of space exploration as pioneering the US West (most recent in history, but not unique), you’ll see the progression. Little bit by little bit. Same as any human exploration on our planet. You go a little further, establish a base then move further after that. Stepping stones till you reach your destination OR you’ve run out of land (or into hostile aliens…take your pick).

        Every single time humans have jumped the stepping stone idea, disaster strikes the people that did it. Massive die off, those in civilization wondering what the hell happened and caution and backsliding to not repeat.

        So while it IS exciting to talk about just landing a crew on Mars and setting up shop—we need to go the stepping stone route IF we intend as humans to colonize another planet.

      • Marcus, I think you missed the true plot of the first “Total Recall”. If you listen carefully, the “recall” people warn users that a possible side effect of the technology is a complete psychotic break where the user totally believes they are a secret agent who goes to Mars. The rest of the movie after that is Arnold’s psychosis so, it doesn’t have to make sense, scientifically or otherwise. In my opinion, the movie was very clever – never revealing that the whole thing is just a delusion and leaving the viewer to wonder whether it was real or not. The new version dropped that aspect in favour of a transport system that ran through the centre of the Earth. Now that is a truly stupid plot device.

        As for colonizing Mars, my plan would be to smash both Martian moons into the planet and then smash as many asteroids into the planet as we could get our hands on from the asteroid belt. This might raise the mass of the planet enough to make it closer to Earth in size and therefore be able to support an atmosphere without all the gases escaping into space.

        I doubt that would be enough to melt the core and restart vulcanism inside the planet but, hey all we’d have to do is build a machine out of unobtanium, drill down, set of some nukes and start it ourselves. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the reference to another movie with a very stupid plot.)

      • I don’t know if there are enough asteroids in the asteroid belt to increase the size of Mars up to the size of the Earth.
        Even if we did that, we still wouldn’t have a magnetic field as the Mar’s core went cold long ago.
        PS: If we dropped enough rocks on Mars to increase it’s size close to that of the Earth’s, we would have to wait a million years or so for the surface to cool enough to walk on.

    • Charles, the obvious problem with your “canal” plan is they could be seen from space. We probably aren’t the only planet that can see Mars with a telescope. If we start improving the real estate like that the galactic Zoning and Building department will see it and the next thing you know we’ll be getting a huge tax bill.

      Best to do it without permits and keep it under cover.

    • Seriously Charles, we can conclude, given the speed of light, the nearest tax assessor’s office is more than 30 light years from Earth or we’d already have received notice for making improvements without permits.

      So, if we put up a geostationary platform it’s unlikely to be seen at all since it will probably be too small to see at that distance. Building a nearside lunar colony can’t be seen. Until we start making gross changes to Mars no one will notice. By the time they figure it out, we’ll be able to say it was “like that when we got here”. No one will be able to challenge us. That gives us a good thirty years (minimum) to build oceans and an atmosphere on Mars with no tax consequences.

  17. One consequence of Earth having a large natural satellite is that the gravitational action of Moon on Earth’s equatorial bulge stabilizes Earth’s spin axis to within a degree or two of 23½ degrees from perpendicularity to the plane of the ecliptic. This, in turn, results in about a 5 degree tilt of Moon’s orbit from that plane.

    Mars, lacking such a massive satellite, on the other hand, has no such constraint on the inclination of its spin axis, so at various times in the past, its polar regions would have undergone more or less direct solar insolation, 24/7, during the solstices. This would likely have favored evaporation or sublimation and photodissociation of water and subsequent loss of its hydrogen to space. This is consistent with the very high deuterium to hydrogen ratio on Mars compared to Earth. That ratio is even higher on much drier Venus, whose spin axis is also free to swing through large angles (Venus is now essentially upside-down) due also to a lack of a large, stabilizing satellite.

    Such water loss would have been further favored on both Mars and Venus by the lack of significant oxygen in their atmospheres. Oxygen was introduced to Earth’s atmosphere by life processes after reduced phases on the surface had been oxidized around 2500 Ma. The interaction of solar ultraviolet radiation with oxygen then formed an ozone layer, and consequently a stratosphere, which both Mars and Venus lack.

    An ozone layer would have suppressed most of Sun’s intense UV irradiance, which would have served in turn to suppress photodissociation of water on Earth. Thus, it seems that Moon, by preventing Earth’s spin axis from swinging, allowed the early development of life on Earth, which then produced an oxygen-rich atmosphere, which in turn produced an ozone layer that largely prevents the loss of water from the planet.

    This scenario could not only explain why Earth retained its water while Mars and Venus didn’t, but it could also greatly restrict the occurrence of life on other planets to those that have massive natural satellites.

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