WATER WORLD

We’re going to start farming moisture on Mars in 2018, just like the Skywalkers on Tatooine

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a whiny teenage farmer just wanted to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters with his friends. One thing led to another, and he ended up becoming a starpilot that overthrew an evil empire.

Before that, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker worked with his aunt and uncle on a humble farm on his desert homeland of Tatooine, trying to suck moisture out of the air and the ground for water to make a modest living. And it seems that our space agencies have designs to do similarly on Mars. New Scientist reported yesterday (Dec. 9) that starting in 2018, the European Space Agency (ESA), in partnership with Russia’s space agency, will start farming small amounts of water from just under the surface of Mars.

A team of researchers from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, led by Javier Martin-Torres, built a device called HABIT that will join the ESA’s ExoMars exploration mission in 2018. The device will, according to the ESA’s website, track the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, and any changes that occur over the days and seasons, as well as the radiation in the area. The researchers believe that data from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover suggest there are pools of liquid water just below the planet’s surface that evaporates during the day. The team’s device will capture a small fraction of that water vapor—about 5 milliliters a day—but if it works, the method could be easily scaled up into something like the Skywalkers’ moisture farms.

“HABIT can be easily adapted to ‘water-farms’ for in-situ resource production,” Martin-Torres told New Scientist. “We will produce Martian liquid water on Mars, that could be used in the future exploration of Mars for astronauts and greenhouses.”

Hopefully future astronauts on Mars won’t have to contend with Jawas, Tusken Raiders, or dust getting everywhere, as were the norm on the Skywalkers’ home planet. Pod racing would be pretty fun, mind you.

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