The spacecraft was mapping the hydrogen – a measure of the water content in the topmost meter of Martian soil and stumbled upon its chemical remains. The discovered reservoir has an area of over 45,000 square kilometers, which is close to the size of Haryana.
“Thanks to the capabilities of Trace Gas, we can look down one meter and find out what is happening under the surface of the planet and find water-rich ‘oases’ that could not be found in previous studies,” said Igor Mitrofanov from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
The discovery was made by the high-resolution epithermal neutron detector telescope (FREND) aboard the spacecraft. He identified an area with unusually high amounts of hydrogen in the Mariner Valley canyon system.
“If we assume that the hydrogen we see is bound to water molecules, then up to 40% of the surface material in this area is apparently water,” added Igor Mitrofanov.
The team said the water found by the orbiter could be in the form of ice or water that is chemically bound to other minerals in the soil. However, other observations tell us that the minerals observed in this part of Mars usually contain only a few percent water, which is much less than recent observations suggest.
Given the planning of a lower-latitude landing mission on Mars, finding such a water supply on the planet could be beneficial for future missions to the Red Planet.