NASA plans to start sending manned missions to Mars in the years 2000, with the aim of establishing a research site on the red planet in the relatively near future, agency officials said if this base was to be sustainable in the long term. term, its occupants must survive on the land and make maximum use of local resources

The most important of these resources is water ice, which not only helps keep Martian astronauts alive, but also facilitates their travels on Earth (water can be divided into its components hydrogen and oxygen, which are the two main components of rocket fuel. Establish a base near the water Which also makes scientific sense, because it is possible that signs of life on Mars, if necessary, are found in or near these places

This base would probably be built at mid-latitudes of Mars, which has a lot of water ice, enough heat and sun to make the processes possible; the poles are very icy but also cold and dark; The tropics are warm and bright by Mars standards, but also relatively dry. NASA officials said mid-latitude terrain also tends to be at lower elevations, which facilitates the landing of human heavy landers. (It helps to have more atmosphere to slow down spaceships, because the air of Mars only represents 1% the thickness of the earth's air)

Mid-latitude ice from Mars has been buried under the planet's famous red soil, but NASA and its exploration partners now have a better idea of ​​where they can easily be reached, through a project called Groundwater Ice Mapping (SWIM), that he directs the Institute for Planetary Science in Tucson, Arizona, managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from NASA in Southern California

SWIM analyzes data collected over the past two decades by three NASA orbits – the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and the Mars Global Surveyor – using five different remote sensing technologies, including neutron spectroscopy and radar (Mars Global mission is complete Surveyor was officially launched in 2007, but the other two orbits are still strong)

“Ultimately, NASA commissioned the SWIM project to see how far you are from the equator to find underground ice”, declared Sydney Doe, in charge of the Mars water mapping project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a NASA press release. declaration “Imagine we draw a zigzag line on Mars that represents the limits of the ice. This data allows us to draw this line with a thinner pen instead of a thick marker and focus on the parts of that line closest to the equator.”

The SWIM team has just published its first results in an article published online on Monday 8 February in Nature Astronomy, and these results are encouraging from a manned exploration point of view, because they reveal that large swathes of mid-latitudes show evidence of buried ice to depths ranging from an inch or two (a few centimeters) at 06 miles (1 kilometer)

Team members stressed that the new study does not specify specific sites for future manned landings, but rather serves as a resource for people who will make such decisions in the future, if things go as planned

“Of course, bringing humans safely to Mars and ensuring their survival requires many other considerations other than the use of water resources on the site, including safety of the landing site and solar and thermal specifications”, said lead study author Gareth Morgan, a senior scientist at the Institute of Planetary Sciences., In a separate declaration

«The definition of site requirements is outside the scope of the SWIM project and will be premature, given that all plans for the human mission to Mars are still at the conceptual stage», Morgan added, «We provide a hemispherical perspective of the ice distribution to support the initial studies of the landing site and allow the community to explore the extent of the land of Mars hosting the ice “

The icy picture may become clearer to a large extent in the years to come, especially if a NASA orbiter called Mars Ice Mapper takes off from Earth. NASA discusses Mars Ice Mapper concept with space agencies in Japan, in Canada and Italy , who could be on board as partners Agency officials said the mission could begin as soon as 2026

Many spaceship works will soon arrive on the red planet. Orbital vehicles operated by the UAE and China are expected to arrive on Mars on Tuesday, respectively (9 February) and wednesday (10 February), and soon by NASA. spaceship will land on Mars, persistence., The 18 February

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Biggest Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall Follow us on TwitterSpacedotcom or Facebook

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