As I write this, the gray skies overhead have opened up and released their heavy load in the form of a drenching rain. I listen to the white noise pounding of it and know the ground is sucking it up, my well is being replenished, and my garden plants are filling out wilted leaves that begged for a break from the heat.
This is the glory of planetary water.
Though highway drivers and many sports fans may curse the rain, we need it for the forests, animals, and ourselves. Just ask anyone facing drought or forest fires. Rain is always good.
Why is water on Mars a good thing?
As scientists stated in the Space.com article, “Mars’ South Pole May Hide a Large Underground Lake”, finding water doesn’t automatically assume life. In this case, they believe the water is very salty and therefore unable to sustain even the most salt-oriented of microbes. However, water can be purified, which means that if we ever settle Mars, one of the basic components for human survival might already be there in large enough quantities to support a colony. Plus, if we found one source of underground water near the South pole, then the possibility of finding others increases. That is exciting news for future explorers and settlers.
Although many experts say terraforming Mars is impossible, I could argue that we simply don’t have the right technology yet. Yet a basic ingredient in colonizing any planet is water. The problem? Water is incredibly heavy. Weighty enough that lifting it out of Earth’s gravity well is prohibitively expensive. Sending up a desalination plant that uses local water sources could solve the issue for future colonists.
Basic needs of humans
When I started writing about settlers in the Asteroid Belt, I knew I had explain with how they received or developed basic resources: air, water, food, shelter, and energy. Food can be grown in the right conditions as shown in the movie “The Martian.” If we have sterile dirt, we can infuse organics to make it fertile soil.
In addition, water can be made from a number of chemical reactions, but it is better to have it in the place already. In my book, the big company ships take water from wells on Ceres, the largest asteroid in the field. In reality, Ceres is a huge block of possibly salty water surrounded by an outer shell of dirt. Since water can be used as rocket fuel, I can easily picture it as a solar system gas station as well as a water source for colonists.
The wonderful thing about water is when you split it, you get two powerful elements: oxygen and hydrogen. To support life, oxygen must be mixed with other gases to make breathable air because none of us can tolerate pure oxygen. We need an Earth-like mix that includes large amounts of nitrogen along with some water vapor and carbon dioxide. In that mix, oxygen is the only one that humans will use up so we need a way to get more.
This element also can be turned into burnable fuel if controlled properly. Hydrogen as well is combustible. The problem is that they both can explode. Remember the Hindenburg! comes to mind. However, they are potential energy sources for rocket fuel and heat if controlled properly. All space ships will need some kind of fuel since the further they get from the Sun, the less solar power will work. Therefore setting up a series of system “gas stations” along the way just makes sense.
So no matter what you use it for, drinking, breathing, or fuel, water is an essential source for any human presence.
That is why I’m excited about Martian water. Its presence brings us one step closer to the ability to colonize Mars. After all, if mankind plans on expanding to the stars, he will need to do it in colonial leaps through our own solar system. This includes having places established on Mars, in the Asteroid Belt, and some distant moons. Each of these settlements can serve for refueling, resupply, and rest stops as we make our way to distant starts. The first step in this grand plan should include lunar and Martian colonization in our lifetime. Finding water on other worlds makes human expansion easier as we reach for the stars.