Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s six-wheeled Perseverance successfully converted some of the Red Planet’s thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into pure oxygen. This toaster-sized instrument, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), completed the task on April 20, the 60th Martian day since it landed on Feb. 18. The goal is to eventually isolate and store oxygen on Mars to help power rockets that could lift astronauts off the planet’s surface. Read more for a video about the device and additional information.
Devices like MOXIE, but on a much larger scale, could also one day provide breathable air for astronauts themselves. On a related note, transporting four astronauts off the Martian surface on a future mission would require approximately 15,000 pounds of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds of oxygen. Carrying 25 metric tons of oxygen from Earth to Mars would be impractical to say the least, but taking a one-ton oxygen converter is a much better option.
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This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars. MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars. Oxygen isn’t just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for STMD.