By Amira Shehata
Sunday, September 10, 2023 at 06:00 AM
A small cube aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover was able to produce enough… Oxygen on Mars Since landing on Mars in 2021, the MOXIE instrument has produced about 122 grams of oxygen.
According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, experts believe that future versions of the instrument sent to Mars will be able to store oxygen to create fuel to keep future astronauts alive or bring them home.
The rover and several of its instruments (including MOXIE) landed on Mars in February 2021, after nearly seven months in space.
MOXIE produced oxygen for the first time in April 2021 and has now extracted oxygen from the Martian atmosphere a total of 16 times.
The instrument synthesizes molecular oxygen through an ingenious process that separates an oxygen atom from each molecule of carbon dioxide pumped from the thin atmosphere of Mars, and as these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to verify the purity and quantity of oxygen produced.
The device will produce 12 grams of oxygen per hour with a purity of 98 percent or better, according to NASA.
The humble cube has proven more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expected, the space agency said.
“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it can extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, which could help provide breathable air or rocket fuel for future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy.
“Developing technologies that allow us to harness resources on the Moon and Mars allows us to build a long-term lunar presence and build a robust lunar economy to support an initial human exploration mission to Mars,” Melroy added.
MOXIE is constructed of heat-resistant materials such as nickel alloys and designed to withstand the high temperatures of 1470°F (800°C) required for its operation.
A thin gold coating ensures that its heat will not radiate and damage the vehicle, and future versions will be much larger, capable of powering missile launchers.
MOXIE’s mission is now complete, and scientists want to build a system like MOXIE that has an oxygen generator, but also a device that can liquefy and store that oxygen.
Not only would the presence of oxygen on Mars allow future astronauts to breathe, but it would also make it unnecessary to transport large amounts of oxygen from Earth to use as rocket fuel on the return journey.