Persistence can make as much oxygen on Mars as a small tree

Persistence can make as much oxygen on Mars as a small tree
Written by boustamohamed31

The Mars Oxygen Resource Experiment – ​​better known as MOXIE – successfully produced oxygen from the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of Mars in a series of tests as part of NASA’s Perseverance rover mission. which landed on Mars in February 2021.

MOXIE was able to produce oxygen in seven experimental runs undertaken from the start of testing in April 2021, in different atmospheric conditions, including day and night on the planet and during different Martian seasons, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
(Like Earth, Mars has distinct seasons, but they last longer than the seasons here on Earth because Mars takes longer to orbit the Sun, according to NASA.)

With each launch, MOXIE achieved its goal of producing six grams of oxygen per hour—roughly the rate of a humble tree on Earth.

“This is the first demonstration of actually taking resources on the surface of another planetary body and chemically transforming them into something that would be useful for a human mission,” said MOXIE Deputy Principal Investigator Jeffrey Hoffman. retired astronaut and professor in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in a news release.

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“It’s historic in that sense.

MOXIE is small – about the size of a toaster – to fit aboard the Perseverance rover. It is designed to operate for short periods, starting and shutting down with each launch to align with the rover’s exploration schedule and other mission responsibilities.

The expanded MOXIE will include larger units that can operate continuously and potentially be sent to Mars before a human mission to produce oxygen the size of several hundred trees. This would allow the generation – and storage – of enough oxygen both to sustain humans once they arrive and to fuel a rocket to return astronauts back to Earth.

MOXIE’s steady output since arriving on Mars is a promising first step toward that goal, the researchers said, although more fine-tuning is needed to ensure it can operate at dawn and dusk — times when the planet’s temperature changes significantly , said Michael Hecht, principal investigator of the MOXIE mission at MIT’s Haystack Observatory.

Members of NASA's Mars 2020 project install the Mars Oxygen In situ Resource Exploitation Experiment (MOXIE) in the Perseverance rover chassis.

How MOXIE works

The thin Martian atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, which is not very useful for humans who breathe oxygen.

It is also much more variable than Earth’s atmosphere. “Air density can vary by a factor of two throughout the year, and the temperature can vary by 100 degrees,” Hoffman said. “One of the goals is to show that we can run (MOXIE) in all seasons.”

MOXIE works by splitting carbon dioxide molecules, which consist of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms – hence its chemical formula CO2. It separates the oxygen molecules and releases carbon monoxide as a waste product.

The Perseverance rover just made oxygen on Mars

Engineers are still testing MOXIE. They plan to increase its capacity and increase its production, with an emphasis on the Martian spring months, when researchers said atmospheric density and carbon dioxide levels are particularly important High.

“The next cycle coming up is going to be during the highest density of the year, and we just want to make as much oxygen as possible,” Hecht said. “We’re going to put everything as high as we dare and let it run as long as we can.”

The MOXIE also seems durable. It worked well, although it had to be turned on and off repeatedly for the tests – a thermal stress that could degrade the system over time. This implies that a full-scale system designed to operate continuously can do so for thousands of hours, said the MIT news release.

“To support a human mission to Mars, we need to bring many things from Earth, such as computers, spacesuits and habitats,” Hoffman said in the statement. “But dumb old oxygen? If you can get there, go for it – you’re way ahead of the game.”

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