Mars Exploring The Planets Mars

Stream Channels on Mars

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Viking mosaic (VM 2M 25/72:CM), U.S. Geological Survey
Channels such as these record evidence of a former climate that allowed water to exist on the surface of Mars. At present, Mars' atmosphere contains only enough water to form an ocean 0.000006 meters (0.0002 inches) deep if it were all condensed to liquid form. Where did the water go?
"Fluid" Impact Patterns

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NASA photo-Viking Orbiter-538A03
Unlike craters on the Moon or Mercury, those on Mars often have ejecta patterns that look like those formed by a projectile impacted in mud. Such "fluidized" ejecta patterns suggest that the subsurface of Mars may be a storehouse for water ice or liquid water locked beneath a layer of ice.
A Subsurface Reservoir


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After Fanale (1976), Icarus 28

This diagram shows areas where permanently frozen ice can exist in the subsurface of Mars. Between 60 degrees north and south latitude, liquid water could be present at depths of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) or more below the surface. A large impact crater could penetrate the ice lens, allowing the fluid to escape.
Ice On Mars

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Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Arizona State University
On May 28, 2002, scientists announced the detection of enormous quantities of water ice beneath the surface of Mars. The ice-rich soil was discovered by the gamma ray spectrometer aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Data indicate that the ice-rich layer contains 20 to 50 percent ice by mass and lies closer to the surface near the south pole. This diagram shows how the depth of the ice in the upper meter of soil may vary from equator to pole.

Mars Odyssey's primary science mission began in January 2002 and is scheduled to end in June 2004.


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©2002 National Air and Space Museum