An engineering test experiment dubbed MOXIE on the Perseverance rover has successfully produced oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, a technology that will be essential for future human missions.
MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a small, gold box-shaped instrument on the rover, successfully demonstrated a solid oxide electrolysis technology for converting the Martian atmosphere to oxygen. The atmosphere on Mars is about 95% carbon dioxide.
MOXIE’s first oxygen run produced 5.4 grams of oxygen in an hour. The power supply limits potential production to 12 g/hr — about the same amount that a large tree would produce.
…The oxygen production process starts with carbon dioxide intake; inside MOXIE, the Martian CO2 is compressed and filtered to remove any contaminants. It is then heated, which causes separation into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen is further isolated by a hot, charged ceramic component; the oxygen ions merge into O2. Carbon monoxide is expelled harmlessly back into the atmosphere.
Human missions to Mars will not just need oxygen to breath. They will need it to provide the fuel for leaving the planet and returning to Earth, since it will be very impractical and expensive to bring everything they need with them. For colonization and planetary exploration to truly happen future space-farers must live off the land.
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