Thursday, September 24, 2009

Viking Lander Stopped Digging Inches Short of Ice?

"Craters Show 1970s Viking Lander Missed Martian Ice by Inches"
Wired Science (September 24, 2009)

"Meteorites that crashed into the Martian surface last year exposed buried ice to the digital eyes of NASA spacecraft.

"Scientists have used those images to deduce that there is a lot more ice on Mars — and that it’s closer to the equator — than previously thought. In fact, subterranean Martian ice should extend all the way down beyond 48 degrees of latitude, according to the model, which was published in Science Thursday.

"That happens to be where the Viking Lander 2 was in operation from 1976 to 1980. As part of its science program, the Lander dug a trench about 6 inches deep. The new model predicts that if it had gone an extra 3.5 inches — a bit longer than a credit card — it would have hit ice...."

The Viking lander's arm wasn't strong enough to dig into hard ice, if that was present: but it could easily have scraped and revealed water ice. What would have happened, if we'd known about low-latitude subterranean ice on Mars back in the seventies, is guesswork. But it would have made a difference.

And, for all that we know about Mars, it's obvious that there's a great deal more that we don't know.

(NASA, via Wired Science, used w/o permission)
I think we'll be back.

Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

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