From the red planet’s carbon dioxide atmosphere, an instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover has made oxygen.
After flying the helicopter on Monday, it is the second successful demonstration of the mission on the planet.
The oxygen generation was made possible by a toaster-sized unit in the rover called Moxie. The name is the abbreviation of Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment.
The unit made 5 grams of gas, equivalent to which an astronaut on Mars could breathe for around 10 minutes. NASA’s thinking is that for future missions, a scaled-up size of Moxie could be taken by the humans. Instead of carrying all that oxygen that they have with them to sustain life on Mars.
Oxygen is also an essential part of chemistry that launches rockets. By burning the fuel in the presence of the oxidiser, which could be simple oxygen, thrust is gained.
At a concentration of 96 per cent, carbon dioxide dominates the planet Mars. Oxygen is just 0.13 per cent as compared to Earth atmosphere’s 21 per cent.
How does Moxie work?
Moxie can successfully strip oxygen from carbon dioxide molecules, made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. The waste product is carbon monoxide which is released up to the martian atmosphere.
To discover how well it works, the NASA team behind Moxie is running the unit in different modes. Moreover, the expectations are that it can produce around 10 grams of oxygen by an hour.
Moxie isn’t just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another planet. But it’s also the first technology of its kind that will assist future missions. By using elements of another world’s ecosystem, Moxie can help to live off the earth. Also called In-Situ Resource Utilization, said the director of technology demonstrations within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, Trudy Kortes.
It takes regolith, the substance you find on the ground, and puts it through a processing plant. It makes it into a large structure or takes carbon dioxide, the bulk of the atmosphere, and converting it into oxygen. This process allows it to convert abundant materials into usable things: breathable air, propellent, or combined with hydrogen, water.
Moreover, NASA is going to fly its Ingenuity helicopter again this Thursday. The mini-chopper Ingenuity made history by making the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another planet.