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Scientists Discover Large Deposit of Ice beneath a Region of Cracked and Pitted Plains on Mars: NASA

The deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, with a composition that is 50 to 85 per cent water ice

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Red Planet Mars, VOA

New York, November 23, 2016 : Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have discovered a large deposit of ice beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars.

The deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, with a composition that is 50 to 85 per cent water ice, mixed with dust or larger rocky particles, the researchers reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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“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,” said lead author of the study Cassie Stuurman from the University of Texas at Austin in the US.

The scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region in the mid-northern latitudes with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument.

Analyses of data revealed a deposit more extensive in area than the US state of New Mexico.

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The newly surveyed ice deposit represents less than one percent of all known water ice on Mars, the study said.

“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,” co-author Jack Holt from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics said.

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The Utopian water is all frozen now. If there were a melted layer — which would be significant for the possibility of life on Mars — it would have been evident in the radar scans, the researchers noted. (IANS)

  • Ruchika Kumari

    ice in mars…..interesting…..more interesting facts are to be discover

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“It Is A More Rugged Surface Than We Predicted,” NASA’s Plan to Scoop Up Dirt from Asteroid Hits Complication

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission.

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This artist's rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

NASA’s plan to scoop up dirt and gravel from an asteroid has hit a snag, but scientists say they can overcome it.

The asteroid Bennu was thought to have wide, open areas suitable for the task. But a recently arrived spacecraft revealed the asteroid is covered with boulders and there don’t seem to be any big, flat spots that could be used to grab samples.

In a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature, scientists say they plan to take a closer look at a few smaller areas that might work. They said sampling from those spots poses “a substantial challenge.”

“But I am confident this team is up to that substantial challenge,” the project’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

The spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, is scheduled to descend close to the surface in the summer of 2020. It will extend a robot arm to pick up the sample, which will be returned to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft began orbiting Bennu at the end of last year, after spending two years chasing down the space rock.

FILE - This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu.
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. VOA

When the mission was planned, scientists were aiming to take dirt and gravel from an area measuring at least 55 yards (50 meters) in diameter that was free of boulders or steep slopes, which would pose a hazard.

“It is a more rugged surface than we predicted,” said Lauretta, of the University of Arizona in Tucson and one of the paper’s authors. But he said he believed a sample could still be collected.

NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling.

Patrick Taylor, who studies asteroids at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but didn’t participate in the spacecraft mission, noted in a telephone interview that the spacecraft was evidently maneuvering more accurately and precisely than had been expected.

“That gives me confidence they will be able to attempt a sample acquisition,” he said.

NASA
NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling. VOA

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Bennu is 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s estimated to be just over 1,600 feet (500 meters) across and is the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission. (VOA)