Are there any ideas on how the polar ice caps of Mars could be used to provide oxygen and water to future colonies?
(Lansing State Journal, August 26, 1992)
The polar caps of Mars are believed to be made of frozen carbon dioxide, also called dry ice, because the atmosphere of Mars is mostly carbon dioxide.
The caps are created as the gas freezes and falls as snow, much as water vapor does on Earth. These polar caps could provide oxygen for colonies, because carbon dioxide has two atoms of oxygen for every atom of carbon, but the energy required to free oxygen would be enormous.
Whether any of the water vapor in Mars; atmosphere has also found its way to the polar caps, in the form of snow is a question scientists have yet to answer. This may be an important objective for an exploration mission, as getting the water would only require melting the ice. The water content of the polar caps is believed to be low because water is rare in Marsí atmosphere. It is possible that water is rare on Mars, because it is all in the polar caps or frozen beneath the surface. We will know for sure only when we explore Mars more fully.
There also is a possibility that water exists on the moon near the poles in the form of ice. On the poles of the moon there may be creators deep enough that sunlight has never fallen into them, so water there would never melt or vaporize. There may be ice in them that has collected over billions of years. If there is water on the moon, it would be very valuable to the operation of a moon colony. Like the caps of Mars, we wonít know for sure until they are explored.
T. McWilliams contributed to this report