A new discovery could impact the future of human exploration of Mars

CALGARY, Alta. (CTV Network) — While humans may be wide-eyed at the thought of sending people across the solar system to live on Mars one day, the discovery of a “relic glacier” on the planet red could mean that the dream is one step closer to reality.

Scientists say the “groundbreaking announcement” presented at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, could mean that “surface water ice” exists on Mars even to this day.

A “relic glacier” is not made of ice, but rather one of several “clear deposits” (LTDs) found in the area. Scientists say LTDs are usually made up of light-colored sulfate salts, but this one appears to have very similar characteristics to a glacier.

Researchers say the relict glacier was found near the equator of Mars (specifically in the east of Noctis Labyrinthus at coordinates 7°33′ S, 93°14′ W for space enthusiasts), which means that ice may still be around the area at shallow depths which could have “significant implications for future human exploration.

The discovery suggests that Mars may have had a more “watery” history than scientists previously suspected, which could change our understanding of how the Red Planet may support human life.

“We have been aware of glacial activity on Mars in many places, including near the equator in the more distant past. And we know about recent glacial activity on Mars, but so far only at higher latitudes. A relatively young relict glacier there tells us that Mars has been experiencing surface ice lately, even near the equator, which is new,” said Pascal Lee, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute. , and lead author of the study.

“The desire to land humans where they could extract water ice from the ground prompted mission planners to consider higher latitude sites. But the latter environments are typically colder and more challenging for humans and robots. If there were equatorial places where ice could be found at shallow depths, then we would have the best of both environments: warmer conditions for human exploration and still access to ice.” , said Lee.

However, Lee says more research needs to be done to determine if, and how much, ice can be preserved as part of LTDs.

“What we think happened here is that the salt formed on top of a glacier while preserving the shape of the ice below, down to details like the fields of crevasse and moraine bands.

“Water ice is, at present, not stable on the very surface of Mars near the equator at these altitudes. It is therefore not surprising that we do not detect any water ice at all. surface. It’s possible that all the water ice in the glacier has now sublimated. But there’s also a chance that some of it is still protected at shallow depth under sulphate salts,” Lee said.

Sourabh Shubham, a graduate student in the Department of Geology at the University of Maryland and co-author of the study, says it’s likely that volcanic eruptions in the area of ​​the find preserved the glacier’s footprint.

“This region of Mars has a history of volcanic activity. And where some of the volcanic material came into contact with the glacier ice, chemical reactions would have taken place at the boundary between the two to form a hardened layer of sulfate salts,” Shubham explained. “This is the most likely explanation for the hydrated and hydroxylated sulfates we observe in this light-colored deposit.”

The scientists add that as the volcanic materials in the area eroded over time, the imprint of the glacier became visible in the salt deposits.

“Glaciers often display distinctive types of features, including marginal, flared, and tic-tac-toe crevasse fields, as well as thrust moraine bands and foliation. We see similar characteristics in this light-toned deposit, in form, location and scale. It’s very intriguing,” said John Schutt, a geologist at the Mars Institute, an experienced guide to ice fields in the Arctic and Antarctica, and co-author of this study.

The study suggests that the relict glacier must be geologically relatively young, likely from the Amazon period – the most recent geological period that includes modern Mars.

The study authors believe that what happened on Mars could be similar to what happened in the Altiplano salt flats in South America. The ancient glacial ice of this region has been preserved under “bright salt blankets”.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Company. Discovery. All rights reserved.

=htmlentities(get_the_title()) ?>%0D%0A%0D%0A=get_permalink()?>%0D%0A%0D%0A=htmlentities(‘For more stories like this, be sure to visit https://www.eastidahonews.com/ for all the latest news, community events and more.’)?>&subject=Check%20out%20this%20story%20from%20EastIdahoNews” class=”fa-stack jDialog”>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *