Representation Image

Last month, NASA's Perseverance rover fired up one of its experiments known as MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), to produce oxygen from the Martian carbon-dioxide atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide makes up ~96% of the gas in Mars' atmosphere and oxygen is only 0.13%, compared to 21% in Earth's atmosphere.

With the size of a car battery, MOXIE makes oxygen like a tree does. It inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. With MOXIE, NASA is aiming to produce up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

Where MOXIE will be Located -

MOXIE highlighted on the Mars 2020 Rover

How MOXIE Works -

Technicians in the clean room are carefully lowering the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover. [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Inside the small metal box that is MOXIE, Martian air was heated to almost 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, splitting carbon dioxide (CO2) into one carbon monoxide (CO) and one oxygen atom (O). And, as Mars’s atmosphere is around 96% carbon dioxide, so there’s plenty to use there. In its first hour-long test, MOXIE produced 5 grams of oxygen, enough for an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes. 

Scientists will run a few more tests with MOXIE during the rest of the rover’s mission, trying to see how much oxygen it can make and how fast.

To launch off of Mars, human explorers need about 33 to 50 tons (30 to 45 metric tons) of fuel, about the weight of a Space Shuttle.


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