NASA's Perseverance rover creates OXYGEN on Mars – Huge step for humanity

The Perseverance rover has listed off another achievement after it managed to convert a small piece of Mars’ thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into oxygen. The machine used its toaster-sized Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) to convert the CO2 into O2. MOXIE works in the same way as a tree – it breathes in carbon dioxide and emits oxygen, the opposite process to animals, including humans.

NASA said the achievement is just a ‘proof of concept’ but it opens up a realm of possibilities.

Not only could MOXIE help ensure humans survive on Mars, but it will also help to facilitate astronauts’ journey back to Earth from the Red Planet.

To burn fuel, oxygen is required, so by creating oxygen on the Red Planet, the likes of NASA would not have to carry a tank to Mars.

NASA said that getting just four astronauts off the surface of Mars “would require approximately 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen”.

Additionally, astronauts would need one metric tonne of O2 between them to survive on Mars.

Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said: “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.”

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To convert the gasses, MOXIE has to heat the CO2 to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 Celsius).

In its first operation, MOXIE produced about five grams of O2 – the equivalent of 10 minutes worth of breathable air.

The machine will complete the operation nine more times over the next two years, with the hope it will be able to create 10 grams of O2 per hour by the end.

Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within STMD, said: “It’s taking regolith, the substance you find on the ground, and putting it through a processing plant, making it into a large structure, or taking carbon dioxide – the bulk of the atmosphere – and converting it into oxygen.

“This process allows us to convert these abundant materials into useable things: propellant, breathable air, or, combined with hydrogen, water.”

NASA said: “Future applications of the technology could produce the vast quantities of oxygen that would be needed as a component of the rocket fuel astronauts would rely on to return to Earth, and, of course, the oxygen could be used for breathing as well.”



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