In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker’s family of moisture farmers struggled to get by on an arid planet on the outskirts of a galaxy far, far away. In our galaxy, it seems that farming water could one day become a possibility for astronauts on Mars, according to the New Scientist.
The Mars Curiosity rover found frozen water and water vapor in Mars’s atmosphere several years ago, but now it looks like liquid water might also be present on the red planet. A group of scientists at the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden has combed through the environmental data that the Curiosity has been sending back to Earth since it landed and found evidence that liquid water might be just under the surface of Mars.
According to the New Scientist, this team discovered that the data suggest liquid water could be present in the first five centimeters of Mars’s soil in winter. Water would condense onto the surface of the planet each night, but evaporate back into the atmosphere as the sun rises. While the Curiosity can’t directly measure whether there’s actually water present on the surface of Mars, researcher Javier Martin-Torres told the New Scientist that his team’s work suggests water is collecting in a salt water solution that could be harvested with the right tools:
“We find the conditions for brines to be produced, but if you want to measure them directly you need some other kind of measurement.”
Martin-Torres also said that his team is working on a “proof of concept instrument” to harvest water out of the atmosphere that will be sent up with the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover in 2018. This water could be used for drinking water for future astronauts exploring Mars, if the test works. It’s unclear whether they will need a droid that understands the binary language of those future moisture evaporators, or if, in the vein of Star Wars, the savior of a hokey religion will one day arise from Mars.