Drilling for water ice on Mars: How close are we to making it happen?

Drilling for water ice on Mars: How close are we to making it happen?

Drilling down deep for ice on Mars thru RedWater technology.
(Image credit: Honeybee Robotics)

Things are making an try up for digging deep on Mars. Development is palpable on how finest to extract subsurface ice to generate drinkable water, rocket gasoline and other primary resources on the Purple Planet.

However tiring down from the topside of Mars to reach available cool reservoirs isn’t any slam dunk.

Tackling that challenge is the company Honeybee Robotics, which calls its scheme the RedWater concept. 

Linked: Mars ice deposits can also pave the trend for human exploration

Dual applications 

Honeybee Robotics’ ice drilling hardware for Mars encompasses coiled tubing and the “RodWell” scheme.   (Image credit: Honeybee Robotics)

“RedWater has proven to be the finest architecture for deep drilling on Mars,” mentioned Kris Zacny, vice president of the exploration technology community at Honeybee Robotics in Altadena, California.

Zacny mentioned that RedWater can serve dual applications, drilling for scientific exploration and water mining. “It’s a gain-gain. We are at a position where this technology will also be infused into [the] next Mars missions,” he told Situation.com. 

Newest revelations about subsurface water ice on the Purple Planet mesh well with RedWater. 

Breaking area information, essentially the most up to date updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!

Glacier ice 

Over time, information gathered by Mars orbiters has published that a third of the Martian surface contains ice reach the skin, as well as more deeply buried ice sheets. 

For instance, earlier this year, observations by the European Situation Agency’s Mars Explain probe suggested that layers of water ice stretch several miles beneath floor in some locations on the planet. 

Together with to the Mars ice story is this month’s represent at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference of a beforehand unseen volcano

The recent research speculates that, below that greatly eroded feature, glacier ice is probably going unexcited exhibit, preserved reach the skin in a gorgeous heat equatorial region on Mars. 

Linked: The quest for water on Mars (photos) 

Demolish-to-cease making an try out 

The RedWater system undergoes cease-to-cease making an try out in Honeybee Robotics’ cool chamber to simulate the shimmering-cool conditions on Mars.  (Image credit: Honeybee Robotics)

Within the period in-between, Honeybee technologists haven’t too long within the past performed cease-to-cease making an try out of a RedWater system within the company’s cool chamber, mentioned Joey Palmowski, a systems engineer at the company.

That work was once undertaken thru a NASA Subsequent Situation Applied sciences for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) grant, Palmowski told Situation.com.

The RedWater system makes use of two proven terrestrial applied sciences, already build into action in make stronger of polar operations in every Greenland and Antarctica. They are coiled tubing that unspools from the skin into underlying ice, and what’s termed the Rodriguez Well, or “RodWell” concept. 

RodWell is a fashion of melting a well in subsurface ice and pumping the liquid water to the skin.

To lower to the traipse: Water ice within the form of particles-lined glaciers or ice sheets, presumably hundreds of meters thick, has been detected and mapped within the mid-latitudes of Mars. That is a positive station for a future human expeditionary outpost

SWIM workforce 

Nathaniel Putzig is affiliate director and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute’s office in Lakewood, Colorado. 

As co-lead of the Subsurface Water Ice Mapping (SWIM) on Mars challenge workforce, Putzig and colleagues are busy charting the location and depth of mid-latitude ice on Mars.

They’re now wrapping up a third phase of the SWIM work, which explicitly aimed to benefit set focusing on priorities for the likely International Mars Ice Mapper (I-MIM) mission concept.


Roughly a third of Mars has ice upright beneath the planet’s surface. Many influence craters within the mid-latitudes of the Purple Planet are stuffed with refined materials that is probably going ice lined with some grime.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

A radar-carrying orbiter, the I-MIM is a projected NASA endeavor in partnership with the Italian area company, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Situation Agency to invent an ice-scouting Mars orbiter. 

I-MIM’s key aim is to signify the extent and quantity of water ice within the mid- and low-latitude regions of the planet.

Putzig mentioned he senses that NASA and the opposite international companions are anxious to pursue the I-MIM mission

On the opposite hand, there was once vital price range uncertainty relating to the endeavor, Putzig noticed, unquestionably on the NASA aspect and presumably with other companies as well. 

“This makes it now not easy for the international companions to finalize their agreements and delivery actively designing and building the mission hardware and devices,” Putzig celebrated. 

Wanted: lateral and vertical information 

There are uncertainties within exhibit-day datasets, Putzig mentioned, so more research — and especially recent orbital radar sounding capabilities — are wished at Mars. 

Once in hand, that information can definitively name and signify buried ice at landing-site scales for mighty regions all the plan thru the mid-latitudes of Mars, Putzig added.

“That mentioned, one can also in concept ship landed missions to higher latitudes or to locations where recent impacts fill exposed ice and be assured of encountering ice within the subsurface the utilization of a drill without first buying that additional information,” mentioned Putzig. “However, even for such locations, the lateral and vertical extent and concentration of the ice will remain poorly constrained without recent devices.”

Laborious information 

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander mission, which in 2008 scooped up soil and probed for ice within the Martian arctic.  (Image credit: NASA)

Drilling even 1 meter (3.3 toes) into ice will also be now not easy, defined Isaac Smith, an affiliate professor at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He’s additionally a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona.

Such drilling on Earth requires hundreds of thermal or electrical power and plenty of human power. “It’s especially now not easy when the ice is significant chillier than minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit), admire all ice on Mars,” Smith mentioned. 

That was once discovered to be the case with the NASA Phoenix Mars lander mission in 2008, mentioned Smith. The legged stationary spacecraft plopped down on the planet farther north than any previous mission, at a latitude the same to that of northern Alaska, then scooped up Martian soil and checked for — and discovered — water ice. 

“That ice-cemented soil [at the Phoenix lander locale] is of direction now not easy to dig in, however anyone who lives in Canada for the duration of iciness knows now not to mosey digging in a backyard when the floor is frozen,” Smith pointed out.

Frozen in time 

Carefully sampling any ice on Mars would yield a bonanza of science returns, Smith mentioned. 

“Polar ice can provide you a close represent of local weather history; mid-latitude ice can turn into a resource for future area exploration and is the next frontier for making an try for life on Mars,” Smith informed. “Honest as getting rock samples can provide clues to Mars’ early history, ice will give us clues to Mars’ most up to date history.”

All factual information, however reaching depths of tens of meters or more is a mighty job, Smith mentioned. Doing so is terribly energy intensive, he mentioned, and requires plenty of human intervention, even on Earth

“For the foreseeable future, it might perhaps well fill to be done by robots on Mars, doubtlessly over long durations, requiring extra stages of robustness, which adds price, and some power provide that we don’t fill but,” Smith mentioned. “It’s likely within the long time interval, and Honeybee Robotics shall be the company to construct it.”

Join our Situation Forums to preserve talking area on essentially the most up to date missions, evening sky and more! And for these who can also fill got a information tip, correction or narrate, allow us to know at: community@area.com.

Leonard David is an award-profitable area journalist who has been reporting on area activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Situation.com’s Situation Insider Columnist among his other tasks, Leonard has authored plenty of books on area exploration, Mars missions and more, with his most up to date being “Moon Trot: The Original Situation Trot” published in 2019 by National Geographic. He additionally wrote “Mars: Our Future on the Purple Planet” released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace The US for the AIAA. He was once got many awards, together with the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. Probabilities are you’ll well perhaps also discover Leonard’s most up to date challenge at his website and on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like