back to article OK. We're off. Water ice found just below the surface of Mars. Good enough for us. Let's go. Impulse power, Mr Sulu

There’s water ice buried below the surface of Mars, and all you’ll need is a shovel to dig some up, according to research published in Geophysical Research Letters this week. “Our results are consistent with widespread water ice at latitudes as low as 35°N/45°S buried sometimes a few cm below sand‐like material, with high …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    Brought to you by Elon

    SpaceX Mars Water. Each numbered limited edition litre will contain 1 cubic millimeter of Mars water. Preorders now available. Delivery date to be determined.

    1. DJ Smiley

      Re: Brought to you by Elon

      To be honest I'd buy some if it wasn't stupidly expensive. If it means he builds something that can take off from mars, he'll have solved the 'we can't get home' issue.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Brought to you by Elon

        Rocks have left Mars and landed on Earth as meteorites. Rocks are smaller than people and don't need to breath or eat or stay unirradiated. Musk (or someone else) might find a way to send Martian ice to Earth but that won't necessarily solve the 'we can't get home' problem.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Brought to you by Elon

          he builds something that can take off from mars

          All you would need is a big catapult.

          1. Androgynous Cow Herd

            Re: Brought to you by Elon

            I also read “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”

            1. JJKing Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Brought to you by Elon

              “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”

              What.........she like to spank astronauts?

              Mine's the one with the RedTube URL in the pocket.

          2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

            Re: Brought to you by Elon

            We'd need a *lot* of knicker elastic. That stuff's heavy. Maybe too heavy to ship to the Arean plans. It's a shame there's no oil or we could make it locally.

            It's a shame there's no oil or we could have our over-puddleian friends liberate the faex out of it.

            Should we tell them there's oil on Titan?

      2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: Brought to you by Elon

        "... he'll have solved the 'we can't get home' issue."

        *What* 'can't get home' issue?

        Once one has got to Mars why the Hell would one wish to come back here? Isn't the whole point to have many unborn chickens in many baskets?

        NASA, Mr. Musk, ESA, JAXA, JPL, Whoever, if you send me I don't need a return ticket. I'll happily stay to wander about fixing up all your lost and broken toys, poke about for Martians [germs and lichen, probably, unlikely to be thoats and Greens] and dig up dirts for you to remotely analyse.

        Hell, I'd even do a potato plantation thingy for you.

        I'd consider it an honour. .

        1. JJKing Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Brought to you by Elon

          HelpfulJohn, I'll come with you. The reduced gravity will help reduce the pain from the 4 crushed discs in my back. Will work for food and a radiation proof tent.

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Brought to you by Elon

      This could be War of the Worlds in reverse. Imagine Pedo-Guy bringing Mars water back to Earth and wiping out those who are stupid enough to buy it. Then again, the chances of anything coming from Mars ..

      1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

        Re: Brought to you by Elon

        Then again, the chances of anything coming from Mars ..

        Million-to-one chances crop up 9 times out of ten.

        1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: Brought to you by Elon

          Only if they are *exactly* a million-to-one.

          Who ever heard of anyone saying "It's a nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and seven to one change but it just might work?"

        2. JJKing Silver badge

          Re: Brought to you by Elon

          Apologies Kabukiwookie, I posted before I saw yours.

      2. JJKing Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Brought to you by Elon

        the chances of anything coming from Mars ..

        But some guy called Terry said million to one events happen nine times out of ten. eek!

  2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge
    Pint

    A very nice bit of image analysis by NASA folk and the MRO gang

    For those who want a bit more detail, look here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasas-treasure-map-for-water-ice-on-mars. This says what the black patches on the map mean: basically Don't Land Here because its most likely a sea of deep dust and sand and hence not a good place to touch down.

    Its also worth following the link in that article. One talks about meteor strikes exposing big enough white areas for MRO's instruments to confirm that it is ice, something I hadn't previously heard about, and also a reminder that the Phoenix lander was able to dig down to buried ice in the northern Martian plains.

    Have a few cold ones, guys, you've earned them!

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: A very nice bit of image analysis by NASA folk and the MRO gang

      Thanks for the URL - now added to the story, too.

      C.

    2. JJKing Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: A very nice bit of image analysis by NASA folk and the MRO gang

      Thanks for that URL Martin but does Mars really spin on a vertical axis? If it does then that would make it easier for me to walk in a straight line unlike her on Earth with its 23.5° tilt that causes me to walk funny. Life is not easy being D'Under.

  3. Kaltern

    Mars.

    Might Moist Mars Make Martians Move Many Million Miles... Must Miss Meddling Man Messing Mount Mons. May Mean Mankind Martian Militance...!

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Mars.

      Marvellous!

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Mars.

      Magnificent!

    3. JJKing Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Mars.

      Oh man, what a nice bit of alliteration. Very impressive.

      1. Kaltern

        Re: Mars.

        I do it occasionally when I get bored.. :D

  4. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Necrophiliacs don't enjoy ice below the surface of Uranus

    1. JJKing Silver badge
      Coat

      Question?

      Are Necrophiliacs any relation to the Necromongers or are we due for a deadly clash of uncivilisations?

      I will leave before I get dead bored.

  5. Bitsminer

    "Spacecrafts" ?

    Please don't pluralize that which don't need it. "spacecraft" is one of those special words that never needs pluralizationizing. Like "aircraft".

    Please.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: "Spacecrafts" ?

      Wouldn't a solution to the atmosphere problem also solve the radiation problem?

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: "Spacecrafts" ?

        Would certainly help. And mitigate the meteorite problem too, at least the smaller ones. Might even raise temperatures a bit by trapping more solar radiation.

        1. The Last Elephant

          Re: "Spacecrafts" ?

          Well, what are we waiting for? Let's nuke the place.

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: "Spacecrafts" ?

      Oh i don't know.

      Plenty of time to knit a sweater whilst on the way to Mars, or sew a small tapestry. A balsa (light enough?) model spaceport maybe?

    3. Spherical Cow Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: "Spacecrafts" ?

      When one person starts pluralising unnecessarily, everyone else will follow like sheeps.

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Pint

    Can human civilization thrive on Mars?

    Well, the first indications are that Mars passes the "Let's mix up a batch of G&Ts!" test. Now we need to do something about that thin atmosphere and high cosmic radiation exposure.

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Can human civilization thrive on Mars?

      based on previous examples of human civilisations on Earth...

      no.

      Humans seem incapable of maintaining civilisation, as soon as things are improving, the self-interested and opportunists will be undermining, and exploiting any weaknesses for personal gain

  7. aregross
    Thumb Up

    Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whips all 'round!

    1. JJKing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Don't delay, buy them today.

      Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whips all 'round!

      I believe the Mistress of the Moon is selling those.

  8. Joe Gurman

    Mmm-mmm

    A 7% solution of perchlorate, Dr. Watson.

  9. Tessier-Ashpool

    Would a shovel...

    ...work terribly well on Mars? It has quite low gravity. I imagine I’d need to eat quite a few mince pies to dig a hole there.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Would a shovel...

      Depends on the soil conditions where you are trying to dig. If it's primarily dry dust & sand with nothing cementing them together, shoveling should be no problem. If it's alluvial with multiple sizes of grains from dust to bowling ball (or larger), it'll be rough even here on Earth ... and the larger the largest particle size, the harder it'll be. If it's sandstone bedrock, you'll have major issues with just a shovel.

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Would a shovel...

        So, use a nuclear powered shovel.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Would a shovel...

          Tactical or strategic? Asking for a fiend. Sorry... friend...

        2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Would a shovel...

          Keep your shovels away from our WC's, we need to use the loo like any other lifeform as well!

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Would a shovel...

            Is that how you grow your potatoes?

            1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

              Re: Would a shovel...

              No of course not, we have Space Cows for that.

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: Would a shovel...

          No need for nukes, steam would suffice.

          1. JJKing Silver badge

            Re: Would a shovel...

            No need for nukes, steam would suffice.

            I believe John Carter could best answer that question. He after all has been there for a few years now.

        4. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: Would a shovel...

          "So, use a nuclear powered shovel."

          Mars has already been invaded by nuclear-powered, semi-intelligent alien robots armed with death-rays and teentsy, little shovels and drills so dropping larger ones onto it shouldn't present much of a challenge. It's just engineering, politics and money. Of those, the engineering is the easiest bit.

          "Nuclear-powered, alien robot invaders", it sounds like 1950's SF movies. Only more fun.

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Long term solution...

    1) Bypass Mars.

    2) Go to Saturn and start perturbing some of those convenient icebergs so that in a few years they land on Mars.

    3) Mars gets both water and a much thicker atmosphere in a couple of hundred years, and it'll last for millions.

    4) $$$

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Long term solution...

      1) Getting there is the easy part.

      2) What is your proposed energy source to perturb the ice?

      3) How do you propose that the ice actually hits Mars, given that as it enters the inner Solar System for the first time in umpteen aeons it'll start to warm up and begin to violently out-gas in random directions?

      4) When all is said & done, you'll have earned those $$$ if your plan succeeds, but probably for your Great*30 grandchildren. I suspect that investing in property here on Earth will yield a better return for you, your kids, and their kids. Unless some nutter starts lobbing chunks of ice at the inner system from out around Saturn and gets in a lucky hit on your condos in Hawai'i, that is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Long term solution...

        Gravity tractor and heat shield

        or

        Very long rope

        or

        Push enough towards the inner solar system and let them rain down on everything some are bound to hit Mars

        Send a few big rock lumps Earth direction too just to liven things up a bit.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Long term solution...

        Unless some nutter starts lobbing chunks of ice at the inner system from out around Saturn and gets in a lucky hit on your condos in Hawai'i

        The size of icy spaceburg needed to survive reaching the inner system will determine how accurate the shot has to be. I think it's probably going to be sufficient to aim at half an ocean rather than at a single condo.

    2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: Long term solution...

      "... Go to Saturn and start perturbing some of those convenient icebergs"

      *NO!*.

      NO, no, no, not ever, never, no and bloody *N*O*. In case I was not clear: *NO*!

      One does *NOT* interfere with The Rings. That's a Crime Against Beauty and Nice Things.

      Besides, Jupiter is nearer and has loads of rocky, icy, otherwise useless blobs falling around her. She has hundreds of Trojans, too, that are not doing much besides filling up space.

      Added to those, there are Mars-orbit-crossing falling rocks and ice-blobs that could be made to become Mars-merging with far less effort, in far less time and with far greater efficiencies than taing chunks of Rings.

      "The Martian Way", by Isaac Asimov was a brilliant and far-sighted vision of the plasticity of Man and his tools but he aimed them at the wrong target.

      Due to tiny effects accumulating to make The Rings what they are, the entire Saturnian system should be considered an area of outstanding scientific interest, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a Humankind's Heritage Site and be placed under permanent Let Well Alone status.

      Yes, even the "gas" on Titan, in spite of my humour.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Long term solution...

        I agree with the beauty of the rings... but they're ephemeral, and will disappear soon anyway[1]. But equally, I don't think that there's much chance of us ever moving enough of it to make a difference. Though this could all be moot, if there is sufficient ice just under the Mars surface... but an iceberg landing at high speed provides not only water (breaking down to hydrogen which leaves and oxygen which hangs around) but quite a lot of 1/2mv^2 heat.

        But unless there are similar, i.e. small, icy things floating around in the asteroid belt, as far as I know all the rest of the water available in the solar system is at the bottom of a gravity well.

        And the Trailing Trojans are, of course, riddled with Moties. And we don't want to encourage the Watchmakers...

        [1] for some value of soon...

      2. JJKing Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Long term solution...

        She has hundreds of Trojans, too

        NO, no, no, not ever, never, no and bloody *N*O*. In case I was not clear: *NO*!

        Those Trojans will result in a lot fewer babies being born on Mars and that is not a good thing.

      3. timrowledge

        Re: Long term solution...

        The rings are doomed anyway in the not so-long term. Use’em while they’re there.

  11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    38% Earth Gravity

    Kicking a shovel into the ground is going to take some practice.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: 38% Earth Gravity

      Start practicing. I want my gin and tonic with ice. Stat.

      C.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: 38% Earth Gravity

        Where'd you get a gin and tonic on Mars? Better tell me, I have a sharp shovel!

        (Mars quickly resumes being an uninhabited planet)

        1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: 38% Earth Gravity

          Where to get a G&T? Well, most of the ingredients are easily made locally, even quinine can be. There may be minor flavourings that need to be grown in hydroponic plants but that's just engineering and patience.

          Given a few years, *whiskey* could be made locally, including the oak casks. With genetic engineering making milk [for the cream] from bugs or fungi, Irish Coffee isn't too far a stretch within a decade.

          Dull Citizen asks: "But what would *I* do on Mars?"

          Star-Dreamer responds: "If naught else,'Do you want fries with that?'"

          Not everyone is cut out to be Chief Para-Optics Officer.

  12. Amentheist

    Wait a sec

    "With so little air pressure, any solid ice evaporates to gas"

    <disclaimer type="elevated levels of dumb possible">

    if we knew that why were we hoping to find water on the surface in previous missions?

    <disclaimer>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wait a sec

      There's more than enough dumb to go around. Ice doesn't evaporate, it sublimates.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Wait a sec

      I think it was more like evidence of previous water activity on the surface, like the gravel formations which have sometimes been interpreted as rills.

    3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: Wait a sec

      Hoping to find water bound to the rocks, or even in microscopic bridges gluing itty-bitty rocks together while held in place by the luck of being in the shade of other small particles.

      Water is persistent and even on a Summer's day, Mars isn't too warm.

      Dropping Phobos onto her to make a blackish coating might help warm it up a bit. Moonfall Spring?

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    Minty

    I have no interest in going to Mars unless they can grow mint there, I don't like G'n'T but I am partial to a mojito or five.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Minty

      Shouldn't be a problem, mint grows everywhere. In fact, getting rid of it is a major headache once it establishes itself.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Minty

        They why can't I get the stuff to grow in my garden? :(

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Minty

          Wow you must the only person who can't get mint to grow. Usually stopping the fucker spreading is the problem.

          To much quicklime and old carpets...?

          [ The BOFH in me wants to know ---------> ]

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Minty

            Re: quicklime ... mint actually prefers a pH of between 7 and 8 (most garden plants prefer 6 to 6.5), but I have successfully grown mint in soils with a pH as high as 9.5. So strangely enough, augmenting your soil with quicklime might actually help it.

      2. JSIM

        Re: Minty

        Smells great when you go over it with the mower.

  14. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

    Hang on, how can a single part of a planet have a thicker atmosphere then anywhere else ? What is left of the Martian atmosphere is already tenuous, how can a small part of it be measurably thicker for a long period of time ?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

      It's a relatively low lying area (up to 3km below datum), so the air pressure is higher.

      Basically the opposite of air pressure being lower on top of a mountain, it's thin at the top, thick at the bottom.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

        Seems like the pressure difference is more likely to be an academic distinction than something actually useful e.g. parachutes. Still, every little helps I guess.

        1. Brangdon Bronze badge

          Re: academic distinction

          It's something SpaceX care about a lot. It may not just be that the atmosphere is thicker at the bottom, but that you have more kilometres of it to fall through before you land.

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

        That makes sense. With no "sea level" because, um... no sea, you get much more extreme variations between lowest point and highests point.

        The atmosphere is prevented from going that low, and high a pressure (from the norm/average) here, because, well, the sea is in the mariana trench. :P

    2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

      Arcadia is low. Lower than the "Mean non-Sea Level".

      Fluids pool into low pits, forming higher pressure regions. Just like the deeper Ocean on Earth, the Arean deeps are higher pressure regions.

      Not "high", not on Mars, but a little higher. .

    3. timrowledge

      Re: "Arcadia Planitia [..] has [..] a thicker atmosphere"

      You’ve noticed that the air pressure on Earth can be different in different places even when they are pretty much at the same altitude? I think they call it ‘weather ‘ or something?

  15. Draco
    Pint

    Another study, another watery flip-flop

    It wasn't even 2 months ago, that the latest reporting on Mars boffinry leaned towards the "Mars dry" end of the spectrum. Today the pendulum swings the other way.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/25/mars_water_study/

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Another study, another watery flip-flop

      It would be interesting to count how many times breathless announcements about having found water on Mars have been published in the last decade(s).

      Clearly somebody haven't heard the sad story of the boy who cried "water" (or was it "wolf"?)...

      1. WereWoof
        Trollface

        Re: Another study, another watery flip-flop

        Well there must be water as it has been known for long time that there are canals on Mars as they were first described by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli during the opposition of 1877 . . . . . . . . .

        1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: Another study, another watery flip-flop

          The [Italian] word he used was translatable to the English "channels", not "canals".

          He meant that his telescope was showing him that the Martians had yet to invent cable and were still using old-fashioned broadcast TV.

          They were also so technologically backwards as to not then have invented pizza and so were, despite Mr. Wells and company, no military threat to the Earth.

          You can't invade if you've nothing good to eat en route.

          1. JJKing Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Another study, another watery flip-flop

            They were also so technologically backwards

            But, but.....but, they invaded Earth in 1938. I mean it was on the radio so it must have been true. Guess they must have come after our pizza so they could travel to distant worlds.

            1. Alister Silver badge

              Re: Another study, another watery flip-flop

              they invaded Earth in 1938

              Or 1897, first, possibly.

  16. spold Silver badge

    Yay! A reason to go there...

    Always had the uncrowded beach, now you can have a pool!

    Just need a SpaceX shipment of deckchairs/loungers, food rations (japanese, buffet, steak-house, mexican), and jynnan tonnyx and you have an all inclusive. Night life may suck a bit.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Yay! A reason to go there...

      You forgot the rubber duck

    2. JJKing Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Yay! A reason to go there...

      Night life may suck a bit.

      Yes, but think of the serenity.......ah the serenity.

  17. Richard Altmann

    35°N/45°S ?

    35°N/45°S, what location would that be?

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