Back in 2019, NASA scientists picked the perfect place to land humans on the Red Planet, where the ice is so close to the surface that astronauts can reach it with a conventional shovel. Thus, the question “where exactly should a person land on Mars?” resolved.
According to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, the plain in the Arcadia Planitia crater, formed by ancient lava flows, could meet all the requirements for a landing site. There is a mass of ice here close to the surface of Mars, which will allow the first people on the planet to easily extract water instead of bringing it from Earth.
“It’s difficult to deliver anything from Earth,” said NASA planetary scientist and lead author of the study, Sylvain Piqueux. “If you don’t have to carry water, you save a lot of money, space and mass on your spaceship, and you can grab science instruments instead.”
NASA considers the presence of ice a prerequisite for choosing a landing site. But at the same time, the agency needs a site where the astronauts will not freeze to death. For example, there is a lot of ice at the poles of Mars, but the temperature in these regions can drop to -150 °C. In addition, it is dark there for several months. Therefore, a polar landing is excluded.
For this reason, scientists are looking for places closer to the equator, where it is much warmer and lighter. The northern hemisphere is preferred due to the large number of plains that are easier to land on. The question was only in the water, or rather, in the presence of ice on the plains.
To find the ice deposits, Piqué and his team analyzed data collected over 10 years of observations of Mars by two NASA spacecraft: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Mars Odyssey Orbiter.
The scientists used the thermosensitive devices of the devices. “Water ice has a unique thermal behavior,” Pikő explains. “It retains heat very well.” Thanks to this feature, it warms the surface of Mars in spring and summer. That is why the climate in Arcadia Planitia is so mild for Mars.
Using this method, the team of scientists was able to prove that there is ice on the plain of Arcadia Planitia, which is only a few centimeters from the surface, which means that the astronauts will not need to bring not only water, but also heavy equipment to Mars to Mars.
The found ice will also be useful for scientific research. If this is a glacier, then its layers can tell a lot about the history of the planet.
Piquet and his colleagues continue to study the surface of Mars with their method, not excluding the possibility of discovering an even more attractive place for the landing of the first people on the Red Planet.
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