back to article Ice cliffs found on Mars and NASA says they’re a tap for astronauts

Mars boffins have spotted lots of almost-pure water ice on Mars. Detailed in a Science paper titled ” Exposed subsurface ice sheets in the Martian mid-latitudes”, the find was made using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The scientists who tend that instrument spotted …

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  1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Note to Mark Watney

    Dig for ice on Mars but if you discover a large green humanoid you probably should try somewhere else.

  2. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Will it be that hard to drink it?

    Mountaineers have problems because they have very limited carrying capacity. I've used a little hand pump jobbie to make water from sea water and its not that difficult - and assuming the astronauts will be recycling I can see them getting away with a relatively small solar collector for heating and melting the stuff and PV powered purifiers for most of their needs.

    Getting hold of the ice is another matter - I've tried hacking at ice before and if it gets any harder as it gets colder a couple of hours work with a pickaxe might produce more sweat than the accumulated ice cubes.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

      Lasers. You forget the laser guns that the Space Force™ will have with them.

      Anyway what about:

      "as we don't know the density of Martian ice"

      Assuming no more than basic mineral contamination, surely the density will be the same as the density on earth? h2o is h2o init?

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

        h2o is h2o however it will never be pure if frozen in an atmosphere because there are always bubbles of atmospheric gasses trapped in it - it's these that cause much of the colour of ice. From what I remember the amount of gas trapped in ice is a factor of formation speed, temperature, pressure and doubtless a few other factors not least gravity.

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

          Right, but based on gases, we are effectively saying that that water can never be as dense as pure, controlled ice because it can only be contaminated with gasses, assuming those gases are less dense than ice (A safe assumption I feel).

          It isn't the gas, per se, but the other chemicals that may affect the freezing temperature as well as the overall density. But the tone of the statement appeared to me that there would be complications from density fluctuations. The only complication would be if it was denser than terran ice.

          I don't think that this can really be a factor assuming that the ice found is indeed, h2o based.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. m0rt Silver badge

              Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

              @symon - ok so you dissolve CO2 in water, what happens when you freeze the result? Not arguing that various water based diluted compounds can vary in density, but I am interested in the relative differences between density of most h2o based compounds when frozen.

              As for the comet coment, (swidt), the problem wasn't about how dense water ice per se, but the underlying formation, compacted ice crystals, was it rock and ice etc. What we are talking about here on the surface of Mars (8mbar average for those that care), is really the comment that is density of the water a real consideration to how it will be utilised by our intrepid, yet thirsty, explorers?

              I don't think so.

              I mean it is a small point. Probably even too pedantic at this stage. But this is El Reg afterall...so if not here then where else?

            2. PNGuinn
              Go

              Re: Will it be that hard to drink it? @Symon

              Ah! Sparking mineral water!

              Just what I need with my gynn tonnix.

              Pass me that rubber duck. Now, will you just help no1 find a nice scented soap mine, there's a good lad

              1. m0rt Silver badge

                Re: Will it be that hard to drink it? @Symon

                Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are on me. Does Uber go to Milliways?

          2. Adrian Midgley 1

            Ice floats

            Because water expands as it freezes.

            Odd, really.

        2. Chemist

          Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

          "e. From what I remember the amount of gas trapped in ice is a factor of formation speed, temperature, pressure and doubtless a few other factors not least gravity."

          Depends on when the ice formed. The atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface is very low now.(~0.06% Earth and mostly carbon dioxide)

      2. Schultz
        Boffin

        ...surely the density will be the same as the density on earth? h2o is h2o init?

        Oh my, where to start. As you can see in the phase diagram, there are multiple forms of frozen ice, helpfully enumerated with Roman numbers from I to XV. But I guess for practical purposes, this type of density change is quite negligible if your water might be 90% of whatever they sell for sand up there on Mars.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: ...surely the density will be the same as the density on earth? h2o is h2o init?

          Should we be worried about ice IX?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...surely the density will be the same as the density on earth? h2o is h2o init?

          Your phase diagram kind of proves the argument. We already know the temperature and pressure on Mars. It's not like we should anticipate some strange Martian form of Ice that bonds in a radically different way.

      3. Muscleguy Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

        I refer you the recent incident of the probe and the comet in the night time. The designers of the probe not knowing the density of ice in said comet thought it would probably not be too dense. Probe bounced, measures to grab into the ice and hold it failed as they bounced off too. After ending up wedged less than optimally it used it's onboard stress hammer to test the hardness of the ice. It broke around the level of 'concrete'.

        The ice mountains on Triton and Pluto will likely be very hard too.

      4. PNGuinn
        Alert

        Lasers. You forget the laser guns that the Space Force™ will have with them

        You mean Mars has little green sharks?

        Who knew?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

      "Getting hold of the ice is another matter"

      A thermal ice drill should work nicely even at Mars atmospheric pressure provided you have enough power (solar or thermal nuclear) and a relatively small amount of water to start the process working. After that its a continuous process. Hot steam in, cool water vapour out which you then condense to get back more water.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

        @AC "Getting hold of the ice is another matter"

        I would imagine at the poles there is not a huge amount of solar so I would imagine they would go and get blocks and thaw it where it was needed. It will be a while before we have pipelines up there and I'd think people will be nearer the equator.

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

      If it's Ice 9 probably best left where it is

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

        ... whereas 99 ices would be extremely desirable.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will it be that hard to drink it?

        Just to be pedantic, it should 'ice-nine'.

    4. Brangdon

      Re: assuming the astronauts will be recycling

      It's not just drinking, washing, and breathing (breathing because they'll want to extract O2 from it). They will consume large amounts of water for making rocket fuel, because it's not practical to carry enough fuel for a return journey. They might also want it for shielding. Apparently it's better than regolith against radiation.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        @Brangdon Re: assuming the astronauts will be recycling

        regolith - sounds like a great name for a Metal band.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: @Brangdon assuming the astronauts will be recycling

          "regolith - sounds like a great name for a Metal band."

          Shirley you mean a ROCK band?

  3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Ok, so we've got the ice

    but where's the gin?

    1. Gobhicks

      Re: Ok, so we've got the ice

      I don't know about gin, but we've got the whisky:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-42608947

      Make mine a Lagavulin

  4. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    Alien

    The Waters of Mars

    Worked so well for Bowie Base.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1413314/

    Note I always thought the infected humans skin texture, resembled a less green version without the carapaces & helmets of the first post. Suggesting the ice warriors might have been very different in their past.

  5. Bangem

    Don't drink the water!!!

    ...until you know whats in it.

    I'm sure they didn't really mean the astronauts WOULD just grab a bucket but just in case...

    Here on earth we've built up a tolerance to the bacteria we're exposed to regularly. Mars might potentially have had a whole ecosystem of complex microbial life at some point in it's distant past. Maybe even at a time when those glaciers were formed.

    Go watch the TV series "Fortitude" or the rather good recent SCI-FI horror flick "Life" for a rather over the top view on messing with ancient bacteria.

    (FWITW - Watch Fortitude anyway, cos it's awesome)

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. tfewster Silver badge

        Re: Don't drink the water!!!

        But...are you telling me the endings of War of the Worlds and Independence Day won't work?!

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          In a nutshell, yup.

          Now what I'd like to know is this : if this is actually true, why do we bother sterilizing the equipment we send out ?

          Apart from trying to not contaminate our samples, of course. Meaning, if the probe we send is not destined to take samples, then why bother ?

          1. annodomini2

            To stop contaminating the destination.

            I.e. Even though this specific mission is not aiming to detect life, doesn't mean some other mission won't and we would never have a clear answer on where that specific lifeform that was detected originated.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. nkuk

              So it could be distinguished from zero with unavailable means :) Even infinitesimally small is an infinitesimally little bit bigger than 0.

              He is making an assertion about all the microorganisms in the universe and assuming that they all behave in the same observable way as Earth microorganisms when he has no way of knowing that. He's saying that he knows all the unknowns, which he doesn't.

      2. nkuk

        Re: Don't drink the water!!!

        But thats taking Earth science and microorganisms and applying it to a different planet with different characteristics. The branches of evolution (if any) and pathogens may be totally different to what we have observed on Earth.

        The article is taking huge leaps of logic about many unknowns, and also is contradictory -

        "The chance that an alien bacteria would have evolved to stick to that protein is infinitesimally small." So not Zero as he claims after all.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Don't drink the water!!!

        Back in the real world, I think it's highly unlikely (say the chances are a million to one) that any of the humblest things upon Mars, bacteria, minute, invisible bacteria, could have any affect on us.

        Ok....you first. Bottoms up!

        Just because it's blue doesn't mean it's water and come to think of it, there's some nice lakes here on Earth that wouldn't want to approach much less drink it. I hope a probe will check out this "ice" before we make any plans or even think about using it.

      5. Farnet

        Re: Don't drink the water!!!

        Being a Terry Pratchett fan, I have to say that your opinion is worrying.

        "In the real world, a million to one chance generally happens nine times out of ten"

    2. RareToy

      Re: Don't drink the water!!!

      Yes! We've seen this on Star Trek (old and next gen), some complex water molecules causes an intoxication like effect.

  6. Big_Boomer

    Energy is all you need.

    The density of the ice will vary according to included/dissolved gases and solids but removing it just requires a heated blade. At 6 milliBar atmospheric pressure it will sublime direct to vapour. Since bacterial contamination is unlikely, you should just need to heat it up. Of course if you do that at 6 milliBar pressure yer gonna go straight to steam, but condensing it into liquid won't be difficult if you pressurise the steam, and separating out the gases and solids is child's play. Getting the energy to do all this when yer on Mars is the challenge. Gonna have to take a Nuke with ya as solar out there is weak and yer not likely to find much oil/coal. Efficient recycling will also reduce the need for vast amounts of water.

  7. Ramlen

    All set for Quaid to activate the reactor

    "Theeeez peeeepel neeed aiiihhhrrrr"

    1. JaffaMan

      My thoughts exactly!

      "Come on Cohaagen! You've got what you want. Givee theeez peeepel aiiiihrrr"

      1. Jay 2

        No, mine name iz Qvaid!

  8. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Drinking that water

    "it takes energy to melt it."

    People don't realise how much energy is involved.

    It takes as much energy to melt ice (convert from ice to water at 0C) as it does to heat that water to 85C afterwards.

    Collecting it is the easy part.

  9. W Donelson

    Just the trip ONE WAY to Mars shortens life twice as much as previously thought. There is no shielding existing or imagined which can block these rays.

    https://phys.org/news/2017-06-collateral-cosmic-rays-cancer-mars.html

    1. Boothy

      Did you actually read the article you linked to? No mention at all of shortening anyone's life, let alone by twice as much as previously thought.

      All they've said is they think there is ... a two-fold or more increase in cancer risk compared to the conventional risk model for a Mars. Key word here being risk.

      So that's an existing small risk that's been increased. Even two times small, is still small!

  10. The_Idiot

    Because I couldn't resist...

    Don't flush it, don't faucet,

    Just relax and let it flow

    Because that's how you want it doesn't mean it's H20...

    Yes. I'm showing my age - sigh.

  11. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    55 degrees north?

    That's where Newcaste is. Just send some geordies with pick axes. It's T shirt and shorts weather!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 55 degrees north?

      It's always T-shirt weather in Newcastle. :-)

  12. dnicholas Bronze badge

    What's all the fuss? I only need 3 cubes per G&T

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