Evidence that Mars once supported liquid water has been mounting for years, and exploratory missions have found that water ice still exists on the planet's poles and just beneath its dusty surface. Accessing that water could require digging it up and baking it in an oven, or beaming microwaves at the soil and extracting the water vapor. Yet no mission has attempted to extract water on Mars or any celestial body beyond Earth in appreciable quantities.
Now, the Netherlands-based organization Mars One, which wants to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet, is planning to send an unmanned lander to Mars in 2018 that would carry an experiment to demonstrate that water extraction is possible. Mined water could be used for drinking, growing plants or creating fuel. [Photos: The Search for Water on Mars]
"Here on Earth, we've experimented with different technologies to extract moisture out of the atmosphere or soil," said Ed Sedivy, civil space chief engineer at the security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin and program manager for NASA's Phoenix lander flight system.