Mile-deep Korolev crater on Mars is filled with ice, year-round

Posted Dec 21, 2018 by Karen Graham
The image of the Korolev Crater sent back to Earth from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter on Thursday comes at an appropriate time, seeing as it's the start of the Winter Solstice. The mile-deep crater is filled with pristine ice, year-round.
This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Korolev crater  an 82-kilometre-across feature found in t...
This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Korolev crater, an 82-kilometre-across feature found in the northern lowlands of Mars.
Even though the Martian crater is a little too far away for a last-minute winter get-a-way, you could ice-skate on this magnificent sheet of ice. The Korolev crater, an 81.4-kilometer (50.6-mile) diameter crater lies just south of the Olympia Undae dunes circling the northern polar cap.
The European Space Agency's Mars Mission was launched on June 2, 2003. It took the orbiter six months to reach Mars, where it entered orbit around the Red Planet on December 25, 2003. This year will be the Mars Mission's 15th anniversary since the beginning of its mission.
The images of the Korolev Crater are a testament to the technology and scientific know-how that went into the mission, and a lot of credit must be given to the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board.
Lower parts of the surface of Korolev Crater are shown in blues and purples  while higher-altitude r...
Lower parts of the surface of Korolev Crater are shown in blues and purples, while higher-altitude regions show up in whites, browns, and reds, as indicated on the scale to the top right. The crater’s thick deposit of ice can be seen at the centre of the frame. Image date: November 12, 2018.
The view of Korolev crater comprises five different ‘strips’ that have been combined to form a single image, with each strip gathered over a different orbit. The crater is also shown in perspective, context, and topographic views, all of which offer a more complete view of the terrain in and around the crater.
The crater is a "cold-trap"
Mars does have seasons, just like we have here on Earth. And like Earth, the warmer seasons result in receding ice. However, the Korolev Crater is a bit of an oddball. That's because it is an unusual geological feature known as a "cold-trap." And the crater is just what the name implies.
The very deepest parts of Korolev crater, those containing ice, act as a natural cold trap: the air moving over the deposit of ice cools down and sinks, creating a layer of cold air that sits directly above the ice itself. Acting like a shield, this helps the ice to remain stable and stops it from heating up and disappearing.
NASA/JLP Image from November 17  2010 showing Korolev Crater on mars.
NASA/JLP Image from November 17, 2010 showing Korolev Crater on mars.
The floor of the crater is very deep, just 2.0 kilometers (1.2 miles) below the rim. From the floor of the crater rises a dome of water ice, 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) thick and up to 60 kilometers (37.3 miles) in diameter. Volume-wise, the crater contains 2,200 cubic kilometers (528 cubic miles) of ice, although there may be some Martian dust mixed in.
Father of Soviet space technology
Korolev Crater is named for spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev, known as the father of Soviet space technology. Korolev worked on a number of well-known missions, including the Sputnik program, the first artificial satellite ever sent into orbit around the Earth, in 1957.
He also worked on a number of rockets that were the precursors to the successful Soyuz launcher – still the workhorses of the Russian space programme, and used for both crewed and robotic flights. Korolev was a key figure in the development of the Soviet Intercontinental ballistic missile program, and later directed the Soviet space program and was made a Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences,