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New research suggests that the conditions on Mars are ideal for using its carbon dioxide to produce both oxygen and fuel for future manned missions.
Mars has excellent conditions for In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) by plasma. As well as its CO2 atmosphere, the cold surrounding atmosphere (on average about 210 Kelvin) may induce a stronger vibrational effect than that achievable on Earth. The low atmospheric temperature also works to slow the reaction, giving additional time for the separation of molecules.
Dr Guerra said: “The low temperature plasma decomposition method offers a twofold solution for a manned mission to Mars. Not only would it provide a stable, reliable supply of oxygen, but as source of fuel as well, as carbon monoxide has been proposed as to be used as a propellant mixture in rocket vehicles.
While achieving this kind of in-situ resource use is not trivial, it is essential if humans are going to settle colonies on Mars. This research seems to be a good start.