NASA engineers have released the latest map of sea ice on Mars. Thanks to it, planners will be able to designate the right place to send the first astronauts who will be on the Red Planet thanks to the Artemis mission.
The Subsurface Water Ice Mapping (SWIM) project has been conducted since 2017. It is managed by the Institute of Planetary Sciences and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA. Its purpose is to collect data about Mars. So far, four similar maps have been created, but none of them was created using such high resolution photos.
The instruments that took the photographs are so sensitive that they detected small impact craters that exposed the ice sheet or places where ice melts and freezes as the seasons change.
Where will the astronauts settle?
The search for subsurface ice is important because liquid water does not exist on the surface of Mars. The planet’s atmosphere is so thin that water evaporates instantly. The map shows that there is plenty of ice at the poles of Mars – consisting mainly of water, although carbon dioxide or dry ice can also be found.
This knowledge is extremely important in the context of planning manned missions to the Red Planet. After all, astronauts will have to find a source of water that will enable them to survive and also reduce supplies from Earth.
And although the best option in this case would be to place them near the poles, planners note that appropriate thermal conditions are also necessary. If astronauts get too cold, they will have to use more energy to keep warm. Therefore, said Sydney Do, SWIM project manager, the ideal place for astronauts to land would be in a region farther south – far enough from the cold of the north, but where there would still be ice. Its search is made possible by the created maps of the Red Planet.
– The less energy you have to spend on heating astronauts and their equipment, the more energy will be left for other necessary things – said Do.
Understanding the planet
But maps are not only an essential element for planning manned missions. Thanks to them, you can understand what processes govern Mars and why it looks the way it does.
– The amount of water ice that is found in the mid-latitude region of Mars is not uniform. In some regions there seems to be more of it and no one really knows why yet. The latest SWIM map may lead to new hypotheses, but also explain where these differences come from – said Nathaniel Putzig, working on the SWIM project.
Main photo source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Planetary Science Institute