NASA has announced the discovery of a colossal mass of underground ice on Mars that could hold as much water as Lake Superior, the second-largest lake on Earth. The body was found in a region of the red planet called “the Utopia” in an area some 2,050 miles in diameter, roughly the size of New Mexico, and running about 560 feet below the surface.
The discovery was made by the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) orbital instrument, which passed over Utopia some 600 times.The ice is protected by a layer of soil, as water cannot exist on the surface of Mars, and it is believed that the deposit is close enough to be accessed by astronauts. Jack Holt, who co-authored the study said on NASA’s website that, "This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice."
Joe Levy, another co-author said that scientists may be able to better understand Mars’ history of climate change because of the discovery, and could possibly discern whether the planet’s water supply could have sustained life.
He said, "We don't understand fully why ice has built up in some areas of the Martian surface and not in others…Sampling and using this ice with a future mission could help keep astronauts alive, while also helping them unlock the secrets of Martian ice ages."
Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, Austin told NASA that, "This deposit probably formed as snowfall accumulating into an ice sheet mixed with dust during a period in Mars history when the planet's axis was more tilted than it is today."Sputnik