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A radioactive power source emplaced between a dry martian surface layer and underlying icy regolith can result in meltwater that persists for weeks or months.
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Transient liquid water near an artificial heat source on Mars

1Michael H. Hecht and 1Ashwin R. Vasavada

1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

Mars 2, 83-96, 2006 | doi:10.1555/mars.2006.0006
Received March 27, 2006 | Accepted November 7, 2006 | Published December 14, 2006

We describe the response of icy martian soil to a localized heat source using analytical and numerical models. Our motivation is to understand the implications of a landing failure in which a radioisotope power source is deposited along with terrestrial microbes within or near icy regolith, resulting in the production of liquid water and the proliferation of microbes.

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