NASA to Test Drills for Cutting Ice on Mars

Scientists with NASA’s IceBite project are heading this week for University Valley, a hanging valley perched more than 1600 feet (more than 1 mile) above sea level in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. Their objective: to test a set of ice-penetrating drills and select one for use on a future mission to the Martian polar north, the same region of the planet that NASA’s Phoenix lander investigated in 2008.
The northern polar region on Mars is of particular interest to scientists because it once may have provided a habitable environment for life. Due to variations over time in Mars’ orbit and the angle at which it tilts toward the sun, Mars’ north pole received much more sunlight several million years ago than it does today — enough sunlight to produce liquid water, enough liquid water to support life. Indeed NASA’s Phoenix lander found evidence in Martian arctic soil that liquid water had been present there in the past.