Massive ice deposits found on Mars

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Satellite image of the ice deposit. Upper half is a 'radargram' from Mars Express' MARSIS instrument shows a longitudinal section of the ice . Lower half is s topographic map of the area based on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor data. White line is the track of Mars Express.
Credits: NASA/JPL/ASI/ESA/Univ. of Rome/MOLA Science Team

The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has discovered ice deposits in the south pole of Mars that are larger than the state of Texas.

Scientists say that there is enough water in the deposits to cover the entire planet with up to 36 feet of water if the ice was to melt. Some sections of the ice deposits are up to 2.3 - 2.5 miles deep. The ice is composed of carbon dioxide, a little bit of dust, and water (90 percent of the water is estimated to be frozen).

What has caught the attention of the scientists working on the Mars Express project is that this may help reveal whether or not there is any (microbial) life within the ice.

Another perplexing question that scientists are trying to solve is what happened to all the water that produced all the channels on the surface of Mars.

Jeffrey Plaut, who is from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and who is also leading the study, noted that, "We have this continuing question facing us in studies of Mars, which is: where did all the water go? Even if you took the water in these two (polar) ice caps and added it all up, it's still not nearly enough to do all of the work that we've seen that the water has done across the surface of Mars in its history."

Currently, only 10 percent of the water is remaining and is located at the poles of Mars. It has been suggested that some of the remaining 90 percent of the water that disappeared could either be underground or could have simply left the atmosphere into space.