The European Space Agency' Mars Express spacecraft has discovered "large volumes of water ice" hiding only 20m underground the red planet's surface, in the Phlegra Montes mountain range. It could be used by future human explorers.
ESA claims that the images show lobate debris aprons that have been moved down the mountain slopes over time, just like the debris covering glaciers on Earth. According to the ESA, their finding is backed up by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter radar data, which "shows that lobate debris aprons are indeed strongly associated with the presence of water, perhaps only 20 metres underground."
The Phlegra Montes is a smooth system of "gently curving" mountain and ridges. Planetary geologists believe that it was formed by tectonic forcers, not volcanic activity. Some of the shaping of those ridges were created by the compression of snow deposited in ancient craters. ESA believes that "over time, the snow compacted to form glaciers which then sculpted the crater floors."
According to ESA, everything points out at the presence of large underground glaciers in this mountain range. They believe that, if confirmed, this water could be used in future human missions.
This is excellent news for the exploration and colonization of our neighbour, as water would be one of the crucial elements to keep the bases and colonies alive.
Until someone discovers the giant nuclear fusion machine left there by an ancient Martian civilisation in order to turn all that ice into a new atmosphere, that is. [ESA]
The square marks the area in Phlegra Montes covered by Mars Express.
"Linear flow patterns can be seen inside the valley (Box 1). Nearly every mountain is surrounded by an apron of rocky debris (Box 2). Over time, this debris appears to have moved down the mountainside and looks similar to the debris found covering glaciers here on Earth. Lobe-shaped structures seen inside impact craters in the region (Box 3) are known as concentric crater fill and are perhaps another indication of subsurface water ice."
Elevation data of the Phlegra Montes mountain range.