Odyssey Helps Plot Mars Exploration Plans

NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft is putting Mars on the chart. Global mapping of the distant, dusty, and baffling world is underway, with first results from Mars Odyssey helping to sharpen future robotic exploration plans, and may hasten the day when human explorers reach out for the red planet. Early looks by the Mars orbiting craft suggest that high amounts of hydrogen exist below surface level in the south polar region of the planet. That hydrogen is likely in the form of water ice, scientists speculate. If so, that frozen layer could, quite literally, put life on ice – a cryo-preserved abode for Mars biology. Moreover, water ice found prevalent across Mars means that expeditionary crews of the 21st century would find a “user-friendly” world – a planet far easier to explore in a sustained and more expansive way.