NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Produces Oxygen on Mars 

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), an instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover, landed on Mars and produced oxygen using carbon dioxide.

MOXIE being placed in Perseverance rover Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The majority of Mars’ surface consists of carbon dioxide (CO₂) at a concentration of 96% compared to only 0.13% oxygen. The Red Planet has a thin atmosphere, having a surface pressure of less than hundredth of Earth’s. Given the conditions, humans are unable to breathe on the planet and would need a spacesuit that provided oxygen. 

About MOXIE 

MOXIE is a technology part of NASA 2020 Perseverance rover investigating oxygen production on Mars. For a future mission to Mars, NASA estimates that a total of 25 metric tons of oxygen would be required to get four astronauts home from Mars. Carrying anything to the planet is highly expensive, given that rockets have limited capacity. MOXIE is a progress towards solving this problem as the first instrument to produce oxygen, thereby also paving the way for future missions. 

The First Operation

MOXIE takes in carbon dioxide from Mars’ Martian surface and heats it up to temperatures around 800°C. It is capable of generating up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour. In the first operation, the instrument extracted 5 grams of oxygen using solid oxide electrolysis, producing the equivalent to around 10 minutes worth of breathable oxygen for an astronaut. 

Over the course of a Martian year (nearly two years on Earth), MOXIE is expected to extract oxygen at least nine more times, testing the instrument’s capabilities at different times of day and seasons in the changing conditions of the Martian atmosphere.

References

Amos, Jonathan. “Nasa’s Rover Makes Breathable Oxygen on Mars.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Apr. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-56844601#:~:text=An instrument on Nasa’s Perseverance,a mini-helicopter on Monday.

Crane, Leah. “NASA Has Produced Oxygen on the Surface of Mars for the First Time.” New Scientist, 22 Apr. 2021, www.newscientist.com/article/2275410-nasa-has-produced-oxygen-on-the-surface-of-mars-for-the-first-time/.

Potter, Sean. “NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Extracts First Oxygen from Red Planet.” NASA, NASA, 21 Apr. 2021, www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-perseverance-mars-rover-extracts-first-oxygen-from-red-planet.

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