back to article Drill, baby, drill: HIDDEN glaciers ON MARS hold 150bn cubic metres of precious frozen WATER

Those terraformers with a dream of one day seeing a blue or even green Mars could be in luck. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found dusty glaciers encircling the Red Planet that could water Martian gardens for generations to come. Boffins at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen used radar measurements …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Are these glaciers buried pretty deep? The thick layer of dust is kind of vague. I guess the probes all went to the wrong places then.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      "Why? What sorts of minerals or contamination is in it?"

      Until we can analyse it, or figure out Martian kidneys.. who knows? I'm guessing one issue may be isotopic, so more deuterium and oxygen isotopes. Then again, deuterium consumption increases the circadian cycle. If that's by 40mins, that would be convenient, or just spooky.

      "I was hoping they would send back a chemical analysis of it so that it could be simulated here on earth and we could have a taste of Martian mineral water."

      Pfft.. Rail gun + iceball + orbital bottling plant for the most expensive and exclusive bottled water or ice cubes. One snag with the Martian colony idea is a certain food giant has already bagged the brand.

    2. Antonymous Coward

      Excessively great expectations?

      Methinks hoping for chemical analysis from interpretation of RADAR data obtained from orbit might be a tad... optimistic?

      Obviously it would be nice to know what it could be contaminated with but discoveries like this - actual, real, quantitative data, that we didn't all know already and not just whimsical press-orientated speculation is greatly appreciated by this commentard. Pint of purest Eau de Mars raised to the boffs --------->

      As for the contaminants, I imagine a simple solar still would work extremely efficiently in the Martian environment... so rogue minerals shouldn't pose too much of a problem...

    3. Captain DaFt

      "Why? What sorts of minerals or contamination is in it?"

      Well, if it's similar to the polar ice Phoenix explored, lots of nasty perchlorates.

      It'd be a bit like guzzling pool chlorinator.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        And salts. Lots of salts.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compare and contrast

    So 1.1 meter of ice averaged across all of Mars, and more than 2 kilometers of water for the Earth? It's going to take a bit more than that to green up Mars to any extent.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Compare and contrast

      California can go through that in no time.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Compare and contrast

        "California can go through that in no time."

        Yep. Feeding the rest of the USA fresh veggies 24/7/365.25. Unfortunately, I suspect we only have enough fresh[0] H2O to feed CA at the moment (and THAT is sustainable, BTW ... will this drought force CA to finally secede? I would welcome the concept ... not certain I would enjoy the implementation, though).

        One wonders if States East of the Rockies will pool their resources to ship their unwanted flood waters to California's reservoirs if this drought continues ... Should be a lot easier to run a couple water pipes across the center of the lower 48 than it was to pipe oil from Prudhoe to Valdez.

        [0] We have the entire Pacific to draw from, but TheIdiotsInCharge[tm] didn't start building desalination plants back in the 1960s ...

        1. Robert Helpmann??

          Re: Compare and contrast

          We have the entire Pacific to draw from, but TheIdiotsInCharge[tm] didn't start building desalination plants back in the 1960s ...

          Santa Barbara completed a desalination plant in 1991 but mothballed it as the drought it was built during ended just as it was coming online. It is being reopened.

          I have also wondered about moving flood waters around for use in areas that lack water. It would require coordination between states as well as some additional infrastructure to be built, but should be technically feasible. I wouldn't want to be the person trying to do the cost-benefit analysis, though.

        2. Uffish

          Re: " We have the entire Pacific to draw from..."

          Might I suggest "We have the first 12 nautical miles from California's coastline to draw from...".

          1. jake Silver badge

            @Uffish (was:Re: " We have the entire Pacific to draw from...")

            Do you understand how much water there is within 12 nautical miles of California's coast? And do you understand when sending a minute quantity of that massive pool of liquid gold into the desalination plant, the Pacific seeks it's own level?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Uffish (was:" We have the entire Pacific to draw from...")


              Next time you hear a whooshing noise; Don't look up expecting to see a fast jet high in the sky, instead re-read for sarcasm.

              HTH BIDI

  4. Jan 0 Silver badge

    I want to be self-sufficient amanfrommars2!

    Spirit has already discovered high purity silica. I see a future for agriculture in locally made glass houses on Mars. The carbon dioxide atmosphere should keep the plants happy. The ambient pressure in the glass houses would need to be boosted with argon and nitrogen from the atmosphere. Glass houses will have the advantage of absorbing ultraviolet light before it kills the plants. The lack of atmosphere means that a similar amount of solar energy would be available, to the plants, as is available at our surface. Plenty of solar energy to bootstrap the production of silicon substrate for photovoltaic panels too. Solar furnaces ...

    Hey, I've got my bag of seeds, where do I sign up? Beer, from Martian barley, of course.

    1. Mikel

      Re: I want to be self-sufficient amanfrommars2!

      There should be plenty of room for housing in the hole left behind after we scoop the water out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I want to be self-sufficient amanfrommars2!

        > plenty of room for housing in the hole left behind

        ... and enough water to support ten legions of Sardaukar!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just make sure your water filters are good!

    ...or the Doctor will have to save you.

  6. Wzrd1

    All of you wanting to drink that water

    Did you forget The Waters of Mars?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dusty Glaciers

    Didn't he play for Atlanta?

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Dusty Glaciers

      not on the videos I saw, she didn't

  8. Grikath


    Now we know the general region where the next probe should be sent...

    Keeping "snowball earth" and glacial extremofiles here on Earth in mind, if life ever developed on Mars, and if anything survived the changes in the planet's ecosphere over the aeons, the most likely place to find it would be in that ice.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: well..

      "if life ever developed on Mars, and if anything survived the changes in the planet's ecosphere over the aeons, the most likely place to find it would be in that ice."

      I think Valles Marineris would be a better bet for life if it exists/existed on Mars.

      Formed as Mars cooled, the depth (up to 7Km), should yield a denser atmosphere, plus its alignment (East-West), depth*, and location (Equator), should presumably be warmer than at the surface altitudes.

      No doubt it contains caves and overhangs which could harbor residual ice, and maybe even seasonally temporary pools of liquid water.

      Unlikely, but we'll never know for certain until we look.

      *Mars is too cold for a molten core, but it still retains some residual heat.

  9. Chris Miller

    When is a billion not a billion?

    US (and UK) billion = 109

    (Continental) European billion = 1012

    The European (and, up to around 1964, the UK) word for a US billion is milliard.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: When is a billion not a billion?

      Yes, as the discrepancy was about 1000x, this probably was the reason.

    2. mhenriday

      Re: When is a billion not a billion?

      Indeed. No need to speculate - the abstract of the article by Ms Karlsson et al refers to «1.55 · 10⁵ km³» of «lobate debris aprons», i e, 155 (long- scale) billion m³ of water ice.... ;-)


      1. wdmot

        Re: When is a billion not a billion?

        And also, why use square miles for units of surface area when you're starting with metric? (And it's a scientific article!) If you stuck with metric, it would be very easy to estimate -- and wouldn't have to link to wolfram alpha (or is that the point?). 1.55x10^5 km^3 / 1.44x10^8 km^2 is about 1.1x10^-3 km or 1.1m.

  10. smartypants

    Exciting New Bogus Health Claims To Come!

    Never mind whether it's potable or how many gerbillions of litres there are. Surely what matters is its marketing potential.

    It's hard at this moment to know whether it'll provide the ultimate 'Detox', or if instead its main utility will be to reverse the 23 signs of ageing. It is almost certain to contain more health-improving 'negative ions' to make it worth the cost of a bottle or too, and who could deny the soft, healthy glow that it imparts to the coat of your trusty labrador? The possibilities are limitless.

    Scientists! Engineers! Get me some of that martian water NOW!

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Exciting New Bogus Health Claims To Come!

      And if it proves to give you a bit of a gippy tummy then it can be marketed exactly like a 'yoghurt-based drink with addded bacteria and fiber ' which " contributes to an acceleration of intestinal transit".

      (I cannot watch the advert without laughing at a product which is marketed as being good at helping you shit better in such polite terms.)

  11. Blacklight


    "Start the reactor...."

  12. Loony Moony



    1. JonP


      The SHOUTY double negative suggests that you are... an aside does anyone use a 10^12 "billion"? I'm pretty sure I've never come across it - I've heard of it but never seen it used - it's always 10^9

    2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Reasonably good rant. It's got capslock and insults, you just forgot to swear and make speeling mitsakes. 6/10.

      JonP, when I was at school I was taught that a billion was a million million, but later in life things got Americanized and it became a thousand million. Which still seems like a bit of a rip-off TBH.

    3. jake Silver badge

      @Loony Moony

      Is that you, Webster Phreaky? If so, how've you been?

      If not, ignore this post. It wasn't meant for you; send all copies back to me immediately without reading them or face possible charges in criminal court for illegal interception of communications.

      (Y,y,y, I know, PDNFTT ... )

  13. Brandon 2

    triple point...

    It's my understanding that the atmospheric pressure on Mars (600 Pa) is below the triple point of water. This means, that unless you can magically increase the atmospheric pressure on the entire fricken planet, you won't see any liquid water there, EVER!

    1. Francis Irving

      Re: triple point...

      I think the first stage of terraforming is to melt the carbon dioxide dry ice cap, to both increase pressure and warming, then allowing liquid water.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: triple point...

        It's one of those fun thought experiments, at least for most of us. For the scientists, it's more work. So terraforming. First create your atmosphere. Grab some nice ice asteroids and drop'em on Mars. That would be quite some environmental impact statement to write, especially if the field geologists haven't finished. It would be an opportunity for pressure groups like Fiends of the Earth to diversify though.

  14. Loony Moony


    Anyway does this mean we have to look for a button to press to flood Mars with water and blue skies? I seem to recall that it does.

    On a serious note, I expect that one day we will be able to steer an ice asteroid onto Mars, and bearing in mind those ginormous alcohol clouds in nebulae whose names I forget, if we could persuade some of that to come down as well, there may yet to be something worth drinking in Mars Bars:)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The old ways are better...

    BIllion = million million ( bi get it?)

    TRIllion = million million million ..(Tri..3)

    Quadrillion = million million million million (quad ..4)

    The modern scheme wrecks the meaning..

  16. Kharkov

    And it's another step closer to Mars Direct...

    So, plentiful water, not that hard to get to...

    The first Mars mission will bring hydrogen, to combine with the Martian atmosphere, to get methane and oxygen to fuel the Earth-Return vehicle. The first crew will probably use drilling equipment (probably delivered separately by Falcon Heavy) to drill (not that deep, it seems) offer a supply of water which will become, in time, methane & oxygen for fuel, methanol & oxygen for rovers, and ethylene for plastic feedstock.

    Ethlene gets you plastic domes and a whole range of useful plastics.

    If we could find some useful metals (Mars has them) in close proximity to the water and you've got humanity's first base...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've mixed feelings about this…

    on the one hand, we're doing an excellent job of fucking up one planet, so now we're considering destroying another but, on the other, if we could ship (outsource) our energy needs to Mars somehow then, perhaps, Earth might have a chance of recovery.

    However, by the time Martian habitation becomes a plausible possibility, it'll be FAR TOO LATE for the Earth…

    Belated happy Easter, folks

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