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Lots of Pure Water Ice At Mars North Pole

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the so-what-my-freezer-has-tons-of-it dept.

Mars 176

brink2012 writes "Planum Boreum, Mars' 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."

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frosty (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545421)

piss

Worst FP troll, ever (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545803)

Look, the article's subject was just lying there with her legs spread, and you just ignored her!

We had pure water once... (-1, Troll)

the4thdimension (1151939) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545427)

...then the industrial revolution happened.

Re:We had pure water once... (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545477)

Yea just look what the salt industry did to our oceans, we can't even drink of the ocean anymore.

Re:We had pure water once... (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545903)

Fresh water has and is contributing to the continued salinization of our oceans. Originally as water is a solvent and streams/rivers dissolved rock on its way to the ocean and left it there with evaporation, now with all the salt on the roads in the winter plus 6 billion people urinating all over the place.

I wonder if it ever have a bad effect though, considering that we use the ocean as our toilet and food source at the same time.

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545945)

garbage in, garbage out

Re:We had pure water once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546687)

I replied to your post but your sig did not load. I think there is a problem, you might want to check it out.

Re:We had pure water once... (4, Funny)

numbsafari (139135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546395)

What's even crazy is the FISH.

Get this: the fish breathe the water, they poop AND pee in the water, they drink the water and they eat other things that also live in the water.

I mean, they basically live their entire lives in the water they crap in.

Yeast are like that, too.

Anyhow, I'm gonna go grab me a tall, frosty mug of yeast shit infested water.... I mean beer...

Re:We had pure water once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546441)

You could ask the yeast how that worked out for them, but once they caused your beer to be sufficiently alcoholic, they were killed off by their own waste product.

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

Genesys1 (308507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546933)

Heh, you crap in your medium too (air). Its just not as viscous as the fishes.

Re:We had pure water once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26547417)

The ocean is like a giant toilet!

Re:We had pure water once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26547441)

Where do you live that people are peeing all over the place? A bus depot?

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

rogeroger (1125533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546873)

as W.C. Fields said, "Water? No thanky you....fish FUNCtion in it!"

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

jep77 (1357465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545579)

Right, but now we know where to get a refill...

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545733)

wrong

....then someone/thing took a poop in it.

Re:We had pure water once... (1)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545889)

And it's not just around our Sun and our Moon anymore [youtube.com] ! What the hell is going on?! What is oozing out of our ground?!

Yes, the Fall into Sin of Environmental Religion (4, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547175)

A cow could die upstream and wipe out a village.

Seriously, people drank beer and wine for a very good reason. It was sanitary and wouldn't kill you like the water would.

Re:Yes, the Fall into Sin of Environmental Religio (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547209)

A cow could die upstream and wipe out a village.

Seriously, people drank beer and wine for a very good reason. It was sanitary and wouldn't kill you like the water would.

Also, if you drink enough of it, you stop caring about all the cow corpses lying around!

Atrocious Summary (2, Funny)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545457)

This is the worst written summary I have seen in ages. With all the unit conversions, I wonder if this guy is a former engineer for an old NASA Mars probe team...

Re:Atrocious Summary (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545799)

Yeah, and we STILL don't know how many Libraries of Congress or Volkswagen Beetles...

Is the amount of ice at the poles sufficient to account for the watermarked features of the planet? A simple 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe if' answer to THAT question would be interesting.

Re:Atrocious Summary (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546409)

He might have worked for Lockheed [wikipedia.org] .

Or any number of contenders.

of course (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545475)

tough to skate on the canals in winter without water.

So Close (5, Funny)

Punko (784684) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545513)

Sufficient Gravity - Check

Sufficient Sunlight - Check

Friable surface (soil) - Check

Sufficient Source of water - check

Sufficient Atmosphere - ummmmm

Sufficient Magnetosphere - uh oh

Cigar - Nope.

Close, but no cigar.

Re:So Close (5, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545745)

Close enough I reckon. The biggest inhibitor to colonization of Mars is not the atmosphere or the magnetosphere - those are possible to solve technically, and already have been for previous space expeditions.

What's really not easy to deal with is water and oxygen supplies - if you have to haul every single kilo of water up the gravity well, you add a massive burden to the operation.

The fact that we have large quantities of ice to work with, means we have both water, and - by virtue of solar power if necessary, oxygen from electrolysis.

That's really the major ingredients that are needed to consider a place 'habitable' if not exactly 'comfortable'.

Re:So Close (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546149)

we have both water, and - by virtue of solar power if necessary, oxygen from electrolysis.

With water? Forget solar power. We'll do power electrolisis with nuclear fusion.

Re:So Close (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546153)

solar power is crappy enough here on earth and even worse on mars.

If we ever get arround to doing anything on a large scale on mars (rather than tiny little rovers that manage less than a kilometer per week) I would strongly expect it to be nuclear powered.

still you are correct, water is very usefull for habitation (you can make oxygen and food from CO2 and water simply by growing plants)

Re:So Close (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546317)

Well, I was thinking in terms that solar power is just a question of land area, and mars is basically empty. Nuclear would require the nuclear fuel for it, and I seem to recall that that kind of thing just isn't particularly available on Mars. Then again, a couple of KG of radioactive last a good long time, so ... whatever :).

IIRC the atmosphere of mars is mostly CO2 already, which makes actually growing plants to be almost trivial. Well, once you get past the fact that the climate isn't that great for plant life.

Re:So Close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546983)

I suspect the lack of nuclear fuel on mars is no less an issue than the lack of solar cells on mars...

Re:So Close (3, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547207)

I was thinking in terms that solar power is just a question of land area,

So presumably you're going to blow your first wish on making 400 square kilometres of solar panels magically appear? Why not just wish for a nuclear plant, or better yet, Alyson Hannigan riding a pony?

Re:So Close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546721)

solar power is crappy enough here on earth

On the contrary, solar *water heating* is quite efficient.

Re:So Close (1)

Punko (784684) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546799)

The thin atmosphere is in fact one of the largest problems to overcome. the gravity is high enough that rocket powered landings aren't an option and gliders and parachutes can generate enough lift for a heavy lander.

Landing (and getting off) Mars is certainly not trivial. This is one of the major reasons why there is such a low sucess rate for landings.

The lack of a Magnetosphere will limit human exposure on the surface and will also limit our ability to change the atmosphere (if we ever envisioned trying to change it).

Colonizing (or just even establishing a base) is rather hard when you can't land anything heavier than the existing rovers without resorting to air bags or bouncing.

Re:So Close (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546793)

Of course no cigar! There's no tobacco. Not yet, anyway.

Re:So Close (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547867)

How about a cigarette then?

Having relatively easy access to water makes long term habitation much more possible, the two deficiencies you mention are solvable.

Sufficient Atmosphere - ummmmm

Breathable gases can probably be harvested from the Martian soil. The primary thing is oxygen, and that is plentiful, if a bit bound up at the moment, on Mars. At best, the soil should have iron oxides which could be harvested, at worst we would have to crack it out of the water.

Sufficient Magnetosphere - uh oh

Not really that big of a problem. While the solar wind would bake an exposed human like a pop-tart, the required shielding isn't that hard to make. Also, there may be parts of Mars which have small pockets of magnetic protection [1 [nasa.gov] ]. It won't help with the atmosphere problem, but it will keep a human from being baked.

The real problem is going to be power. Solar is an option, but with the dust storms this probably won't work. Fossil fuels are a no go for the same reason local water is so important: getting it there takes way too much energy. That pretty much leaves the nuclear option. And even this has the problem of having to transport the fuel; granted with a good IFR reactor the amount of fuel needed could be significantly reduced, but that fuel would still need to be transported.

So, really, the remaining hurdle is figuring out a good way to power the whole thing. Any such setup is going to consume energy like an American at a Vegas buffet, and that is going to be very difficult and costly to transport, if we can't find it locally.

Re:So Close (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 5 years ago | (#26548227)

Sufficient Gravity - Check

Actually, it isn't. Mars has only about 1/3rd the gravity of Earth. Humans would still experience bone loss. However, it's work-around-able by spending less than an hour a day in a centrifuge.

logistics (2, Funny)

rarel (697734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545533)

We're still looking for the way to get the Bourbon over there though.

Look at that bottled water opportunity! (4, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545539)

Martian Water!

4 billion years old, untouched by mankind!

Unique solar system chemistry boosts your base DNA!

Live longer!

Improve your love life!

Martian Water: Now only $1,000 a liter!

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (3, Interesting)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545757)

Martian Water: Now only $1,000 a liter!

That would be an incredibly cheap price to pay for a sample from another planet. Considering the costs of storage, and transport yea that would be VERY cheap. The demand would be incredibly high and would not cover the shipping and handling costs.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (5, Funny)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545913)

You're right! It sounds almost too good to be true!

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546001)

Let it never be said jokes don't go whoosh on some people.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (4, Funny)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546031)

The trick, of course, is to dehydrate that water before it leaves Mars. Your liter of water turns into a small packet of dust which your customers simply need to reconstitute before use.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (3, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546623)

The trick, of course, is to dehydrate that water before it leaves Mars. Your liter of water turns into a small packet of dust which your customers simply need to reconstitute before use

I guess you would call that Marsani?

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546079)

Considering it currently costs a few tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram just to launch a payload into LEO, I don't see anybody returning water from Mars at $1000/kg anytime soon.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (1)

Dr. Smoove (1099425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547115)

If you're paying that much to launch your payloads into anybody, you're doin it wrong... or you're Eliot Spitzer ZING

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546179)

Martian Water: Now only $1,000 a liter!
I think you need to add a few zeros to your estimate.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (5, Informative)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546421)

Martian Water: Now only $1,000 a liter!

Still cheaper than a liter of printer ink.

Re:Look at that bottled water opportunity! (2, Funny)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546617)

...don't forget naturally carbonated!

Technical name for it (4, Funny)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545543)

We have a name for a mixture of water and carbon dioxide. It's called "seltzer water". With added impurities, it's sold as "soft drinks".

Mmmm ... Martian dust cola. Satisfies your body's need for hundreds of trace minerals.

Re:Technical name for it (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546637)

...probably would taste like mineral water.

A new goal for the rich and pretentious ... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545545)

... drinking "Exotic, pure Martian water" from 30ml bottles that cost $15000 a pop.

Breaking news for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545695)

You don't think some people would line up to buy it? Shuttleworth would be there.

What is the volume? (2, Insightful)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545601)

[blockquote]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). [/blockquote]

OK, so how many libraries of congress, or Niagra Falls is this? All joking aside, how does this relate to single units of glaciers or land masses, not non-continguous lakes. For example, how many Antarctica's is this? Or how many of our own polar ice caps? Hell, just tell me how many deep Greenland would be covered in ice!

I know we need things to make volumes, sizes, distances and other units seem real but let's choose something that we all can relate to, that makes sense, eh? Great Lakes just seems really a) North American centric, b) non-sensical to most U.S.ians like myself.

Sorry for the complaint. I know you do your best with these things. Perhaps it is the lack of Vitamin D and the seasonal affective disorder amongst some of us Northern Hemispherians that make me cranky.

Re:What is the volume? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545663)

You don't have to be American to learn about the geography of the planet. Its not America's fault that you don't know about the largest freshwater lakes on Earth. Likewise, it isn't America's fault that the lakes happen to be in America.

Re:What is the volume? (5, Informative)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545767)

The salty Caspian Sea is the world's largest land-locked body of water. It contains approximately 18,900 cubic miles of water (78,700 cubic kilometers).

Lake Baikal is the world's largest freshwater lake in terms of volume. It contains about 5521 cubic miles of water (23,000 cubic kilometers), or approximately 20% of Earth's fresh surface water. This is a volume of water approximately equivalent to all five of the North American Great Lakes combined.

Re:What is the volume? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545911)

I suppose that's Baikal [wikipedia.org] in Irkutsk, Montana? The world's most voluminous continental lake (singular) is Baikal. The Great Lakes may cover more area, but that doesn't translate into more water.

Re:What is the volume? (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546013)

uh, only part of them, eh?

Re:What is the volume? (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545797)

Considering most of us have never been to Antarctica I am sure we would still have a hard time relating to this. We would need a more common reference point - and since more people have been to the great lakes then to antarctica that is a good choice.

Re:What is the volume? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545879)

Even worse is the ridiculous idea of comparing a volume of ice to the volume of a lake! How about comparing apples to apples? Either give a comparison to some relatively well-known mass of ice, or an idea of how much water it would form if melted.

If you insist... (2, Funny)

geobeck (924637) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546835)

How about comparing apples to apples?

Okay, the volume is approximately equal to 25,000,000,000,000 apples.

Re:If you insist... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547517)

Okay, the volume is approximately equal to 25,000,000,000,000 apples.

Apple LC 'Pizza Box' computers, Cube, or the current aluminum tower Macs?

Re:If you insist... (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547617)

Organically-grown Washington Gala variety.

Re:If you insist... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547791)

Ooh, those are good!

Darn it! Will have to stop on way home now.

Re:What is the volume? (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546817)

It is about a tenth of Antarctica.

Yes but.... (1)

Bai jie (653604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545649)

where is the secret chamber of air and atmosphere?

Mineral? (-1)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545749)

The water is undrinkable if there are no minerals. The trace amounts of minerals in water are used by the human body. If you drink pure water, you are depriving yourself of these minerals. If you can get the spectrum for H2O then might be possible to see the minerals. It would have been useful for the author to research a little bit more.

Re:Mineral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545921)

Errr, yeah, sure... Gotcha. Pure water is undrinkable, mineral water is a-ok... I think I'm missing something here.

Re:Mineral? (4, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546103)

There is a widespread urban myth that distilled water is harmful. I've heard it all my life. Look at all the discussion [google.com] at these sites. Some say there are benefits, some say it'll kill you. Too bad KiwiCanuck didn't "research a little more."

Re:Mineral? (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546355)

Yeah, that's funny because western Travis County regularly prescribes boiling your water before using it because the wells dry up and the water supply is not reliable.

I figure the myth came about because pure water doesn't have any nutritive benefit apart from being water (unlike your regular complement of minerals in the tap).

-l

Re:Mineral? (1)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546705)

boiled water != distilled water.

also the "myth" has some sort of truth: using too much distilled water (way too much) could reduce the solute portion of your internal fluids. This is not a myth and directly messes up with the osmosis process of living creatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmosis [wikipedia.org]

Re:Mineral? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547557)

Like that lady trying to win a Wii for her kids by drinking water [cbsnews.com] ?

Re:Mineral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26547585)

Try snorting tap water into your nose. When you do, you'll have a good, practical understanding of osmosis.

Re:Mineral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26548209)

This is why IVs are based on saline solution and not distilled water.

That isn't to say that you can't drink distilled water, in fact if you drank distilled water and then sucked on salt you'd prolly be fine. It is just easier to have the salt pre-dissolved in the water you are drinking.

Additionally, salinating water is much easier than desalinating.

Re:Mineral? (1)

solkimera (1319365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546419)

It's not undrikable, but yes, but the human body does use minerals in water. Which is why your not suposed to go about drinking the distiled water.

Bunk (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546097)

Maybe you could help the author out by providing some citations for your claim that pure water is undrinkable. While it's true that the human body needs minerals, there are plenty in food. They do not have to come from the water you drink.

Re:Bunk (4, Informative)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547891)

I know from experience that de-ionized water will rust stainless steel. I couldn't remember which minerals, but I found them in the WHO report. The minerals are calcium & magnesium. See page 17, http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutdemineralized.pdf [who.int] So people who drink pure water should takes multi-vitamins to compensate. Or drink a couple of glasses of milk a day.

Re:Mineral? (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546269)

Let me be the third to cry BOLLOCKS ! And besides, how hard would it be to add a pinch of martian soil to each cup you drink.

Re:Mineral? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546285)

Two points

1: they say this water is 90% pure, that is FAR from what most people would consider pure water. The "natural mineral water" you buy in the shop is more than 99.9% pure water.
2: a local supply of water that has to be treated (either by adding stuff or more likely removing stuff) to be drinkable is still far preferable to carting water all the way from earth.

Oil (4, Insightful)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545751)

Who cares about water ?

Just discover petroleum on another planet, and there will be a tough competition to get there !

Re:Oil (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546309)

Well, there is this famous moon of Saturn, where it rains methane. Close enough?

Re:Oil (2, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547947)

Close enough?

Call me when it rains Martinis.

Re:Oil (1)

ZOmegaZ (687142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546425)

Of course, since petroleum is the remnants of life, finding it on another planet would open a whole new can of worms. Especially if it's like that stuff from the X-Files.

NASA... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545795)

To paraphrase the words of Hauser/Quaid, "Get [our collective] ass[es] to Mars!"

Landers are cool, 'bots are cool, but people are better!

Mar's Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545855)

Wooo.. Time to go to mars.. Bottle some water there and bring it back.. Pre-order today you mars water! 100$ per ounce

When do they start bottling it (3, Funny)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545859)

and sending it down to hit store shelves?

If they can have "iceberg" water, I'm sure Mars water will also have an audience:
http://www.finewaters.com/Bottled_Water/Canada/Berg.asp [finewaters.com]

Me? I'm going into the dihydrogen monoxide business.

H2O+CO2 (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26545941)

mixture of water and carbon dioxide

Club soda! I'll bring the cognac and lemon.

liek wot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545951)

"Mar's"?

THANK YOU CAPT OBVIOUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26545995)

They have discovered ice at the north pole !!!

Now !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546181)

Get your ice from mars !!!!!

Earth's oceans are about 96.5 % pure water (4, Interesting)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546263)

So the water is 95% "pure" - what's in the 5%? For comparison Earth's oceans are about 96.5% "pure" so the water on Mars certainly would not be drinkable without processing but that's fairly easily done, I think.

Re:Earth's oceans are about 96.5 % pure water (2, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546951)

Remember that salts will not generally freeze out in ice, especially ice that forms by precipitation (as is assumed for the Martian poles). I would assume that the polar caps are very pure ice, with some dust and dissolved CO2. If you melted it, the dust would drop out, and the result might very well be drinkable.

This is one case, though, where I think "Trust, but Verify" definitely applies.

kick start (2, Interesting)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546531)

So, we somehow melt (some of) the ice, it evaporates to form oceans and clouds, which kick-starts a water-rich atmospheric cycle. Can someone more knowledgeable than I in these matters please explain whether there's any possibility of this working, or have I just seen too many sci-fi movies?

Re:kick start (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546723)

Well, for starters...

So, we somehow melt (some of) the ice, it evaporates to form oceans

I'm not sure that if you evaporate liqud H2O you get oceans as a result, you might want to check a phase diagram or something :)

Also the amount of ice is much too little for what you are proposing.

I think we'd have a higher chance of success if instead we tried to bombard Mars with captured comets... in other words, not much chance at all.

Re:kick start (1)

Quietust (205670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547307)

Liquid water cannot exist on Mars at any temperature, since the atmospheric pressure is too low (Google for "triple point" for an explanation).

I'd go with nuclear power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26546703)

blow out the planet and finish the discussion.

Ocean Equivalent (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26546893)

Since Mars's Surface Area = 144 million km^2, this implies (for 2.5 million km^3 of ice) that ice caps are enough to supply a water layer 17 meters deep over the entire surface, or maybe 50 meters deep in Hellas and the Northern lowlands, if it was all melted. (If the polar caps entirely melted, that alone would raise the surface pressure above the triple point of water, so liquid water would be possible. The Hellas Basin is deep enough that the pressure is above the triple point now, and it definitely could have liquid water in it if the climate warmed some.)

Note that the polar caps show very clear signs [arizona.edu] of layering [arizona.edu] , presumably caused by the long period obliquity oscillations [obspm.fr] , and are in general very young geologically, so it is not beyond belief that, say, the Hellas basin fills up with water on a regular basis, every 500,000 years or so.

So we're less atypical than we think? (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547079)

The last few hundred years of human history have seen people gradually being forced to abandon our exceptionalism. From the belief that the Earth is the centre of the universe to identifying it as a small planet going round an only slightly above average star has taken about 500 years. The belief that human beings, despite having the same biological mechanisms as the other mammals, are essentially different in some magical way is in retreat. Palaeontologists are now assigning more and more anthropoid remains to the genus homo - Neanderthals are now considered merely a different race. But a lot of people are still kicking and screaming to believe that the Earth is somehow magically a uniquely habitable planet. This is perhaps why there was such resistance, first to the idea of water on Mars, then to admitting that there is a lot. The story of recent Mars exploration so far is that it is more like the Earth than expected. This is despite its size and distance from the sun - which raises the possible number of habitable planets out there.

The last time I posted on this - pointing out that so far 100% of the actual planets we've explored have been inhabited - someone replied repeatedly emphasising the words "on Earth" - whereas my entire point was that this view is "Earth exceptionalism". Other than a few vague words in a book written over 2000 years ago by one small Middle Eastern tribe, we have no written statement on the subject (while most Indians religions support a plurality of worlds.)

Mars may not be inhabited by life, it may never have been - but we are now seeing a lot more water than previously believed, and evidence of methane generation. The probability must be assessed as non-zero.

Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26547333)

Screw you guys I'm going to Mars.

95% pure (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547583)

It may be 95% pure, but it's that other 5% that turns you into mutant zombies.

Brains!

Frozen ice and carbon dioxide (1)

tzot (834456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26547693)

I can see a Perrier sponsored Mars exploration mission.

The Moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26548003)

Does this improve the chances of finding water at the poles of the Moon ? After all there's still a ( very ) slim chance that we could actually establish a viable colony / base there, before we run out of energy.

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