Mars radar could help stave off drought in Middle East: NASA

Last Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 21:19

Alexandria: Technology used to
discover underground ice on Mars could also be used in the
search for water on Earth and help ward off conflict in the
arid Middle East, a NASA scientist said Thursday.

A probe launched by the US space agency NASA discovered
in 2007 that the desert which covers Mars sat on enough frozen
water to submerge the Red Planet.

The same radar technology should be used in the vast
deserts of the Middle East and North Africa, scientist Essam
Heggy told a UN-sponsored water conference in the Egyptian
coastal city of Alexandria.

"We (in the region) are best placed to use this
technology," Heggy told participants at the United Nations
Development Programme-sponsored conference.

The equipment, dubbed Marsis, consists of a radar sounder
with a 40 metre antenna fitted to an orbiter that is able to
bounce radio waves 3.7 kilometres beneath the surface of Mars.

Heggy said the technology could detect water up to one
kilometre beneath the dense deserts that cover much of the
Middle East and North Africa and which experts say threaten to
consume more land in the next century.

Scans taken by NASA showed an especially arid region of
Darfur in Sudan sat on top of 6,000-year-old valleys and
lakes.

The "water that was at the surface is now on the
subsurface level," said Heggy, a planetary scientist with
NASA`s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"If we don`t have these images we`re shooting in the
dark."

Middle East countries, which include the world`s largest
oil exporters, spend more on oil discovery than any other
region in the world but devote the least amount of funds to
water exploration, Heggy said.

"Water has no substitute. But still, we`re not looking
for it," he said, adding that its scarcity could trigger
potential water-related conflicts in the region.

"Water is a resource, like any other resource. And we
have seen conflicts over resources," he said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 21:19

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