‘At least 150,000 tons’ of water frost discovered atop Mars’ tallest volcanoes

Once thought impossible to exist, water frost found atop Mars’ Tharsis region volcanoes could come in handy for future human exploration missions, new research suggests.

The frost was first spotted by the European Space Agency‘s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which captured high-resolution color images during early morning . After analyzing 30,000 images snapped by the probe, the researchers confirmed the existence of the frost, an ethereal blue patina that forms in unique Martian microclimates from cool air wafting up to the peaks.

“What we’re seeing may be a remnant of an ancient climate cycle on modern Mars, where you had precipitation and maybe even snowfall on these volcanoes in the past,” Valantinas said.

With the existence of the frost confirmed, Valantinas will continue studying the Martian environment — particularly ancient hydrothermal pools that could have supported microbial life. One day, samples from these vents could be brought to Earth for study by NASA’s proposed Sample Return Mission.

Samples of Mars’ dust, and even evidence of ancient life, could have already been collected by the Perseverance rover, which has been exploring Jezero crater since 2021. NASA initially planned for a retrieval mission to launch sometime in 2026, but this date has since been delayed until 2040 due to budget concerns. NASA is currently soliciting proposals from private companies to speed up the mission timeline.

“This notion of a second genesis, of life beyond Earth, has always fascinated me,” Valantinas said.