Red Planet tech plays a role in ‘Mars’ TV show

Image: Daedalus landing on Mars
The look of the Daedalus spaceship in National Geographic Channel’s “Mars” miniseries is based on what experts think would work best for a Mars landing. (Credit: NGC / Framestore)

The Red Planet mission that’s depicted in National Geographic Channel’s “Mars” miniseries may be purely fictional, but it draws upon decades’ worth of technological development for real-life interplanetary odysseys.

One of the technologies was proposed by researchers at the University of Washington way back in the 1990s. It’s a device known as a Water Vapor Adsorption Reactor, or WAVAR, which could theoretically extract humidity from the thin Martian atmosphere.

“They actually built a device, they tested it, they showed it would work,” said Robert Braun, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado who was once NASA’s chief technologist and is now a technical adviser for the “Mars” TV show.

Braun worked with the show’s scriptwriters to put an array of WAVAR devices around the Mars crew’s living quarters. Such a setup could keep the astronauts hydrated until they can get a steady supply of water from melted-down Martian ice.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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