13 thoughts on “Martian Water”

  1. Maybe the folks who sold that bogus “glacier water” and “iceberg water” could fund a Mars return mission to bring back “genuine Mars water” to sell to the “stupid rich”…

  2. ROs. I’d be more concerned about perchlorates than permanganates, but bisulfite will neutralize them both if required. There are also oxidation resistant RO membranes.

      1. They have about a 30% reject rate, which is in the form of brine. Could probably use fractional crystallization to recover any useful salts if it’s worthwhile. Also, they work on pressure differential which would actually be an advantage on Mars. Most of the power usage here is in generating pressure.

    1. “ROs. I’d be more concerned about perchlorates than permanganates, but bisulfite will neutralize them both if required. There are also oxidation resistant RO membranes.”

      I wonder if it is possible than Martian soil contains similar chemistry to the “oxygen candles” used by the US navy for emergency oxygen generation? Would be a hoot if it did.

      “Oxygen candle[edit]A chlorate candle, or an oxygen candle, is a cylindrical chemical oxygen generator that contains a mix of sodium chlorate and iron powder, which when ignited smolders at about 600 °C (1,112 °F), producing sodium chloride, iron oxide, and at a fixed rate about 6.5 man-hours of oxygen per kilogram of the mixture. The mixture has an indefinite shelf life if stored properly: candles have been stored for 20 years without decreased oxygen output. Thermal decomposition releases the oxygen. The burning iron supplies the heat. The candle must be wrapped in thermal insulation to maintain the reaction temperature and to protect surrounding equipment. The key reaction is:[5]

      2 NaClO3 → 2 NaCl + 3 O2 ”


  3. The hard part is going to be finding a licensed well driller on Mars, which implies that there has to first be a local government that issues well drilling licenses.

    Absent that, if the mission is being run through JPL in Pasadena, I imagine it will require approval from the California State Water Board Division of Drinking Water, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the California Department of Water Resources, the California State Water Board, the California EPA, and the California Geological Survey.

  4. Given that you have to heat it into liquid form just to get it up the 3-mile borehole to the surface, why not just go the rest of the way and bring it to a boil once it gets there? Distillation is energy-intensive, but for the amount of water needed, perhaps not so bad, especially if using a reactor for power. It’s also fairly fool-proof and doesn’t require constant resupply of things like filters.

    Also, any chance that the ice might be closer to the surface in places like Hellas, Utopia, or Chryse?

    1. Actually, come to think of it, would you even need to heat it once you got it to the surface? Can you distill out contaminants using low pressure, instead? Because if there’s one resource that Mars has in spades…

      1. Flash distillation on Earth is made more difficult by the need for the equipment to resist external pressure. On Mars, very lightweight balloon-like containers might be useable.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong but, I was at ATK in Elkton many years ago and was told that they were a super fund site and had to planted lots of willow trees to filter the perchlorates out of the ground water. “Every year they have to take a few of the old ones off to a special incinerator and then they would plant some more.” It would be really cool if we could GM some organic to not only filter out the perchlorates but also decompose into solid rocket fuel when it dies. Not only would it be useful, it would be a great retro SciFi book title: “The Rocket Trees of Mars”

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