May 26, 2002
7:35 AM   Subscribe

Next Thursday, NASA will announce the discovery of huge water ice oceans on Mars. Lying less than a metre beneath the surface south of 60° latitude, the water ice reservoirs if melted would form an ocean 500m deep covering the entire planet. NASA insiders believe these findings could result in a manned landing within 20 years.
posted by adrianhon (23 comments total)
Hot ziggity. China just changed its Moon plans. Red Planet, indeed.
posted by pracowity at 7:42 AM on May 26, 2002

Underhill Base, here we come.
posted by darukaru at 7:43 AM on May 26, 2002

Just to highlight the importance of this: large quantities of readily accessible water would not only be invaluable for any kind of human exploration or base, but their presence dramatically increases the chances of life having arisen on Mars in the past.
posted by adrianhon at 7:47 AM on May 26, 2002


(a fav meme: "Bill Gates will be remembered in 1000 years as the man whose robots constructed the first building on Mars.")
posted by kablam at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2002

Wow. Just... wow.
posted by fnord_prefect at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2002

Yes! Kudos to NASA for this. Now get moving on the space tourism bit, will ya!
posted by dagny at 9:04 AM on May 26, 2002

"Mars, extending us a welcome!"

Sorry, a bit of MST3K geekery
posted by evanizer at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2002

Mars globe with oceans -- though I don't know if the water volume figures agree. Also, Oceanic Mars images for POVRay.

This is good, for a lot of reasons. It increases the likelihood that Mars was able to support life in the past, and we're even more certain than we used to be that even extreme climate conditions are no bar to life. It also increases the likelihood that Mars could support human colonization in the future. If life is there now, things could get problematic for a variety of obvious reasons, but so far it doesn't seem to be. We're tantalizingly unable to definitively answer that question.

From another perspective, it's a little disappointing that the features on Mars are now more likely to have been created by water flows. There hasn't been much of a lobby for this position, but given the physical mysteries which continue to surprise us as we investigate just our own solar system, the possibility of another mechanism was an interesting grail to seek.

I do hope this increases the chances for funding of a Mars Semi-Direct mission.
posted by dhartung at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2002

yay, that made my day :P
posted by rhyax at 10:08 AM on May 26, 2002

"The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one.."

Time to shorten those odds then ...
posted by feelinglistless at 10:26 AM on May 26, 2002

20 years? Can they speed things up a bit? I'd like to get there at some point, but I have a feeling the upper age limit (which will decrease as things get more comfortable) will continuously evade me. But for the newborns right now, oh boy.

Then again... Although exploring frontiers is very sexy and sounds good in fiction, frontier *living*, as evinced by non-fiction accounts of settlers throughout this world, might not be so hot...
posted by whatnotever at 11:19 AM on May 26, 2002 *living*, as evinced by non-fiction accounts of settlers throughout this world, might not be so hot...

Settlers on Mars would be quite different from the settlers in (for instance) America. For one thing, American settlers didn't have massive government backing. Once they hit the docks and got their wagons together, it was a mostly DIY venture.

Granted, living on Mars would be a bit tough for various reasons, but I'd prefer a multi-million dollar NASA-built habitat over Donner-Party-like conditions any day. I mean, sure you might die in the cold, pitiless vacuum of space, but you could be almost 100% positive that your corpse wouldn't be eaten by your fellow settlers.
posted by fnord_prefect at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2002

I find it odd that this is the Beeb's top story, but no major Canadian or US news source (that I can find) mentions the story. Sleepy Sunday? Or is everyone else waiting for NASA?
posted by Yogurt at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2002

You will live in the stars
Your backyard will probably be Mars
You will ride a crater scooter
And eat off your computer
Oh you will live in the stars

posted by Mick at 5:08 PM on May 26, 2002

You know what we'll find when we get there?

posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:02 PM on May 26, 2002

Well if cats are from Mars, mr_crash_davis--and sometimes I think mine is from beyond the Oort cloud--then where are dogs from?
posted by y2karl at 9:29 PM on May 26, 2002

but will there be much left for the archaeologists when the terraformers are done?
posted by Aleph Yin at 10:03 PM on May 26, 2002

"...where are dogs from?"

Somewhere around Canis Major, I would think.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:16 PM on May 26, 2002

I'll stay put until the goverment program has been replaced with a free market system

There's the rub. The government might fund a manned mission to Mars (I hope it happens during my lifetime), but establiishing permanent colonies will require some sort of economic incentive. Just what economic incentive is there for building a colony on Mars? As much as I'd love to see it, I found the economics in Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy a bit hazy.
posted by Loudmax at 12:19 AM on May 27, 2002

Mars needs women.
posted by bingo at 9:26 AM on May 27, 2002

Loudmax, I've wondered the same thing. Even postulating some miraculous leap forward in propulsion technology that would allow cheap mass emigration to Mars, I can't imagine an economic incentive that would make it necessary. What can we possibly do on Mars that we can't do far more cheaply on Earth? What resources does Mars have that would be worth the staggering cost of extraction? One can imagine a few reasons to live on the Moon, but nothing beyond sheer curiousity seems to motivate a Mars programme.

I do not expect to live to see any Martian cities. One or two tiny villages, perhaps, but given the current pace of space exploration I'm not even hoping for that.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:30 AM on May 27, 2002

Mars Neds Guitars
posted by kirkaracha at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2002

nothing beyond sheer curiousity seems to motivate a Mars programme

I believe one of the arguments for Martian/Lunar colonies is the belief that humankind's destiny is in the stars, and that the best way to delay our extinction is to spread the population out as far as possible.
posted by piskycritter at 4:31 AM on May 28, 2002

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