NASA is close to finding a place to land humans on Mars
Researchers have used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey Orbiter, two satellites orbiting Mars to locate water ice that will be accessible to astronauts on the red planet.
The second moon landing is set for 2024. This will also work as a base for us to reach Mars, the next place we expect to move to.
Scientists are looking for a landing spot on Mars and have zeroed in on a site that contains traces of water beneath its surface, an important factor for selecting a landing site on the red planet.
A new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests a site with water ice spread around 2.5 centimetres beneath the surface. Water ice is formed because water cannot last in the thin air of Mars and changes from a solid to a gas when it is exposed to the atmosphere. So Martian water ice is found underground throughout Mars’ mid-latitudes. This is considered a key point in favour of zoning in on this particular area for a potential landing site.
Drinking water may be harvested and rocket fuel could be made for surviving on the planet. As the first home on the planet will be the spacecraft landing on the surface of the moon, NASA is calling this concept "in situ resource utilization".
Researchers have used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey Orbiter, two satellites orbiting Mars to locate water ice that will be accessible to astronauts on the red planet. This data will also help in finding a suitable place to build the first Martian research station.
The lead author of the paper says, "You wouldn't need a backhoe to dig up this ice. You could use a shovel, We're continuing to collect data on buried ice on Mars, zeroing in on the best places for astronauts to land."
How did they find Water ice on Mars?
Researchers used two heat sensor cameras present on Mars Odyssey. A heat sensor camera was used because the ice present beneath the surface changes the surface temperature of the particular site.
They cross-checked the data with the data of reservoirs of ice detected at the meteor impact sites by radars. Odyssey's Gamma Ray Spectrometer - a device tailor-made for mapping ice deposits - was also used by the researchers.
These locations are mostly located on the Martian poles and mid-latitude regions. Previous studies suggest that the northern and southern mid-latitudes have plentiful sunlight and warmer temperatures than the poles.
But, scientists suggest that landing in the northern hemisphere should be preferred as it has lower elevation and provides more atmosphere for a slow landing.
A large portion of the northern hemisphere is also called Arcadia Planitia. The warm colour on the heat maps suggests the existence of over two feet (60 centimetres) of deepwater ice whereas the blue and purple represent ice that is less than one foot (30 centimetres).
"The more we look for near-surface ice, the more we find," said MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of JPL. "Observing Mars with multiple spacecraft over the course of years continues to provide us with new ways of discovering this ice."