Mars North Polar Ice Cap.  Credit:  NASA/JPL

Lots of Pure Water Ice at Mars North Pole

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

Planum Boreum, Mar’s north polar cap contains water ice “of a very high degree of purity,” according to an international study. Using radar data from the SHARAD (SHAllow RADar) instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), French researchers say the data point to 95 percent purity in the polar ice cap. The north polar cap is a dome of layered, icy materials, similar to the large ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica, consisting of layered deposits, with mostly ice and a small amount of dust. Combined, the north and south polar ice caps are believed to hold the equivalent of two to three million cubic kilometers (0.47-0.72 million cu. miles) of ice, making it roughly 100 times more than the total volume of North America’s Great Lakes, which is 22,684 cu. kms (5,439 miles).

The study was done by researchers at France’s National Institute of Sciences of the Universe (Insu), using the Italian built SHARAD radar sounder on the US built MRO. SHARAD looks for liquid or frozen water in the first few hundreds of feet (up to 1 kilometer) of Mars’ crust by using subsurface sounding. It can detect liquid water and profile ice.

Mars southern polar cap was once thought to be carbon dioxide ice, but ESA’s Mars Express confirmed that it is composed of a mixture of water and carbon dioxide.

The study on Mars north polar cap appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.

Source: PhysOrg

25 Responses

  1. jay says:

    I wonder what would happen if we were to melt all of that ice under earth like conditions….. ( earth like meaning STP conditions)….

  2. hmm says:

    greenhouse gases to warm up the planet & water for humans to flourish! except that there has to be a downside to that idea, just melting it all…

  3. Sci-Fi Si says:

    That really is fantastic news for space exploration. I wonder if the Moon will turn up anything?

    I had been very much sideing with the Moon Society’s point of view. Moon first, then Mars, but this is really fantastic news and might just tip the balance.


  4. leky says:

    What happens when u pass an electric current trough CO2 and H2O???


    “These findings are not evidence for life, but evidence for active processes on Mars.”

  5. marcellus says:

    Follow the water. Skip the Moon, go directly to Mars.

  6. Irwin Weisberg says:

    The south polar cap appears to be seltzer.
    So exactly how many billions of taxpayers’ dollars did NASA spend to find “2 cents plain” on Mars?

  7. Farcall says:

    Irwin: However much it was, it wasn’t enough. We need to increase NASA”s budget about 10 fold, keep government out of the face of private space companies, stop bailing out busted banks and failing auto makers and *really* invest in the future. And the future *is* Mars – not to put too fine a point on it, because it doesn’t stop there.

    That “2 cents plain” is a big step toward humans becoming a truly multi-planet species.

  8. Chris Coles says:

    The underlying principles are good, but the execution not so good. The US government is already by far the largest employer. Adding to that is only going to add to the pressures on the public purse. Tax.

    What we need are new ways of funding private enterprise. In the recent past, the only way forward was always with the government paying….

    If your savings were placed into new savings institutions with a simple remit to pass those savings on into new equity capital investment which in turn is invested into new job creation on simple free enterprise terms, you do not need to go to anyone to get on with the job, you just form a new Joint Stock Company and get started.

  9. pantzov says:

    luxury item for the future: bottled mars water.

    maybe mars club soda. $10 million/bottle

  10. Alhazred says:

    Why is it people have this fixation with colonizing Mars? OK, you may be able to argue that manned scientific exploration would be worthwhile, given that you have a cheap enough way to get there. Colonizing Mars makes no sense whatsoever.

    Where is the economic argument? Even assuming we were a space civilization why would anyone want to trudge all the way down the gravity well of ANY planet, let alone Mars? There’s nothing there you can’t acquire from small bodies with considerably less delta V required and considerably simpler than the so far unsolved problem of even landing on Mars.

    It simply makes no sense whatsoever. It’s not like there is some kind of desirable real estate there. At best it would fantastically difficult to survive on Mars, at least as difficult as it would be to survive on the Moon.

    At least the Moon has a number of economic arguments in its favor. Close proximity to Earth essentially, but being airless and 1/2 the mass of Mars helps a lot too. I can think of all sorts of potentially valuable things you could do on the Moon that would make economic sense. Name even ONE such thing in regards to Mars. About as close as you could come would be “well, maybe we’ll make some valuable scientific discovery there”. OK, fine, then explore.

    Colonizing Mars will not happen under any set of circumstances imaginable today. Daydream about it all you want, but please don’t waste valuable resources on something that is a poorly considered fantasy.

  11. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    leky Says:
    January 20th, 2009 at 10:58 pm
    What happens when u pass an electric current trough CO2 and H2O???


    Same thing happens when I pass a bunch of baked beans thru my innards…


    Big whoop.

    My question is when do we start trying to find a way of harvesting that methane from ourselves and animals?

  12. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    Alhazred Says:
    January 21st, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Why is it people have this fixation with colonizing Mars?

    It’s not completely a novelty idea floating around. With Global Warming being a runaway train at this point, are you really surprised that the notion of colonizing Mars comes up?

    If this planet becomes uninhabitable, we’re going to have to do something. I know that at the current pace, we’re totally screwed. But what if there’s something else on the horizon? What if 200-500 years from now, our descendants are faced with the possibility of a massive asteroid hitting Earth? I would hope humans and their defenses would have progressed greatly by that time, but if not we could start the ball rolling on getting Mars to a less hostile state. It would greatly help down the road to keep the human species alive.

    It’s not just a day dream envisioned by a couple of guys sitting around on their lunch break at NASA trying to see who can come up with the craziest idea. If we’re finding things on Mars that are similar to what we have here, why wouldn’t you at least give it some thought? You’d be nuts if you didn’t.

  13. Tomkaten says:

    Alhaz, why the obsession ? Well, how long do you think our beautiful Earth will keep providing for all of mankind at the current rate of population growth ?

    I guess we can at least agree that we need to colonize stuff if we’re to survive as a species, right ? Ok, then, so what should we “terraform” ?

    The inner planets are out of the question, Venus is too hot, Mercury is hell as well and a dead planet (no magnetism, no activity, nothing).

    The outer ones… 4 gas giants and Pluto, which is totally out of the question. Moons ? Plenty, indeed, but all frigid and toxic.

    So tell us please WHAT better place to colonize than Mars could you possibly think of ? At least the temperature ranges are relatively close to those on Earth. With a bit of a “nudge” in the right direction, it’s probably the most feasible plan.

    I know we can dream to spread to an Earth-like planet in another solar system some day, but that’s a pretty remote dream. It will probably take us a couple of hundred years longer than going to something in our own neighborhood.

  14. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    That’s the problem with deep space travel – it takes forever. By the time you get to your destination, your mode of transportation is vastly obsolete. Wormholes, if found to be more than theory, would help tremendously – as would warp drives.

  15. Astrofiend says:

    “Alhazred Says:
    January 21st, 2009 at 11:16 am”

    >>>You gotta admit though – it’d be cool to do – we’d do it because it was there to do.

    Way to bring economics into it to really take any enjoyment out of the idea. Economics should be a tool, not a reason – what is the point of doing anything based on economic arguments alone? There is no endgame in economics – only the misguided idea that wealth creation is somehow the be-all and end-all of all things – screw everything else.

    It’s not called ‘the dismal science’ without reason.

  16. mike says:

    I fully agree with Tomkaten, our biggest threat isn’t the asteroid, brown star, etc but our exponential population growth, the root cause of global warming, and unless checked dramatically the prognoses for our old earth’s continued habitability is in my opinion dire. MOK

  17. John says:

    NASA needs to work on the colonizing of Mars as soon as possible. Every ciitzin on Earth should be taxed $1 for this to come true. In that way humankind is ensured to survive for billions of years.
    I think it is possible to transform Mars to be inhabited.

  18. John says:

    Can oxygen be cultivated for Mars?
    Will plants grow on Mars?
    Can a structure be built on Mars?
    NASA must answer these questions – money well spent.

  19. matt says:

    Mars’ not Mar’s

  20. This much has been proven… Yes we can grow plants in mars soil… Yes there is water on mars which we can use to create fuel and breathable air…

    Here’s the problem…

    If anyone can figure out how to give mars an electromagnetic field then we can begin to talk about creating an atmosphere on mars. Until then, whatever you melt won’t make a difference because most of it will be blown into the solar system by our suns solar winds. There’s no question we could make small, or perhaps even huge skyscraper sized livable habitats, on mars with a self contained atmosphere, but terraforming, the planet is a much more difficult task than the laymen can envision. Mabey in thousands or millions of years of technological evolution we can, but we’ll have to figure out how to live within our means on this planets resources until then. That is if we don’t all kill each other 🙂

    Just a drunk musicians point of view.

  21. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    @ Shorty Long:

    You bring up some good points. The weak or lack of magnetic field does pose a problem. I think you’d have to find a sci-fi way of starting it back up and put an emphasis on figuring out if it’s really that far out of the realm of acheiving such a thing.

    I know it was just a movie with a really sci-fi plot, but is “The Core” really that out of whack? Would that method work? Would you need at least a semi-molten core to start with? My guess is you would and if popular belief is correct, Mars is pretty much cold and solidified.

  22. KIpp says:

    Although I don’t agree on all points, Alhazred has a point. From an econcomic as well as technical simplicity point of view, consider the concept of exploring and colonizing near earth asteroids.

    You’d want to pick your targets carefully. You might not find as much water as you’d like, unless you pick things like comets. But It would be so much easier to get to and get off of such targets. Plus imagine the mining possibilities… Pick a metallic asteroid, all that metal right on the surface. If your target has a fairly circular orbit, you should have good consistent solar flux for power. You will have to build hardened living quarters but your construction materials are at hand and your probably going to excavate anyway.

    You can even use solar powered ionic thrust to stabilize orbits over the long haul, but that would take a long time.

    Just a thought…

  23. Alan says:

    Great! Assuming the other 5% isn’t something toxic contaminating the water, I guess we can soon look forward to using the polar caps as our restrooms and dumping grounds like we’ve done on Earth to our Great Lakes and oceans.

  24. Caveman69 says:

    An observation on Mars weak gravity field, as compared to earth. The reason earths core remains molten is due to gravity. Many factors of gravity from the proximity to the sun, to haveing one focused polarity balance (The Moon), to the percentage and makeup of the our core being mostly affected by the inductance of “Heavenly” gravitational forces, fits our Earth engine formula. The first step of afftecting the Mars terraform would be a thorough study of it’s core makeup. The real answers after that rely on weather simple solutions on grander scales, like induction, large scale fusion reactors, or microwave focusers, can be applied to “jump start” and sustain a Mars Engine formula. Only then would the red planet repair itself without further human interaction. Just my opinion.

  25. Caveman69 says:

    I hate to admit it, but some of what Alhazred is a driveing factor. You will always have conservative economy bound, and liberal pioneer thinkers. On one hand, forward thinking is why this planet is blessed with industrial and free America. However, leaps of faith do not pay the bills. The interesting thing about being human, is we get to be both conservative and liberal. Alhazred, seems freaked out by current events, but is missing the bigger picture, our next big ocean to cross lies skyward like it or not. If you believe everythings eventual, then the speed at which we transend from stellarly castrated to an inter planetary species is directly proportional to the faith of the world economy. Make it profitable to be on other worlds, and you wont be able to keep deep pockets on this rock.

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