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This was no ordinary Martian earthquake that the Insight Mars lander heard on the red planet last December.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Vehicle detected the source of the rumble a couple of months later while scouting the planet from orbit: an impressive meteorite crater over 2,000 miles from Mars' equator, one of the largest ever discovered on the planet.
But what excited scientists is no less significant than the recorded seismic activity. When the meteor crashed into Mars, huge chunks of ice, the size of a boulder, were ejected from the crater. Until now, in this region, the warmest part of the planet, researchers have not found underground ice.
“Of course we know that there is water ice near the poles of Mars. But when planning future human exploration of Mars, we would like to land astronauts as close to the equator as possible and have access to the ice in those places. At lower latitudes, this ice can be converted to water, oxygen, or hydrogen, which is critical and useful for future missions,” said Lori Gleizes, NASA director of planetary sciences, during a press conference on Thursday.
< br /> This discovery is a grand finale for NASA's Insight lander, which is rapidly losing power due to dust settling on its solar arrays. Scientists believe they have four to eight weeks left before communication with the module is lost. At that point, his mission will end.
NASA scientists plan to find out when and how the ice was buried at the site of a fresh crater that is 500 feet wide and just under 70 feet deep.
< br /> Ingrid Daubar, a planetary scientist at Brown University who leads the Insight Crater Task Force, is confident the ice is of Martian origin and not meteorite origin, as the force of impact from such a large meteorite hitting the Martian surface should have completely wiped out “
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