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Perseverance technology experiment produces oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere

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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Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

15 comments

  • Steve Richter

    is it possible to introduce biological organisms that would grow on Mars?

  • Jeff Wright

    Mars regolith has a lot of peroxides from what I understand.
    So hydroponics/mariculture/aquaculture it is for a bit.

    There is enough ice for hydrolox engines-better for ISRU..but about to go extinct with the metholox religion.

  • George C

    CO is also a fuel and is liquid at a reasonable temp. Not as good as CH4 and obviously with available H2O there are ways to get to CH4.

  • pzatchok

    I doubt that we will be able to just drill a well on mars and suck out water.

    So it will have to be manually released from the soil.
    Heating it in a closed environment would work and the second effect is that you also release/break down peroxides by heating the soil..
    Manganese also removes peroxides.
    After the soil is “clean” you just need to add trace elements, some starter biomass, and bacteria.

    Its not impossible but it is work.

  • wayne

    Jeff-
    thanks for bringing that up.
    Also, IIRC, filled with perchlorates, and bathed in UV-C light.

    Prepping the Perseverance Power Source
    IdahoNationalLab
    June 2020
    https://youtu.be/K79IwXzGBKk
    2:54

  • wayne

    “Idaho National Laboratory”
    https://inl.gov/mars-2020/

    great obscure factoid– the plutonium-238 for the RTG on Perseverance, was produced from stockpiled neptunium-237.

    “While the United States has enough plutonium to fuel the space missions scheduled for the next decade, the domestic supply of plutonium is a limited resource. In order to establish a new supply of Pu-238 to enable future NASA missions, Congress directed the Department of Energy to resume Pu-238 production…”
    December 2019

  • Why would the apparently plentiful water locked into glaciers on Mars — the result of sublimation and recondensation at fairly recent points — be full of perchlorates? Why couldn’t one just “mine” it?

  • geoffc

    I wish they might have sent a Sabatier process reactor. MOXIE is a great first step. But looking forward to seeing more specific ISRU experiments. Pretty much guaranteed to be on the first SpaceX vehicle to Mars.

  • wayne

    Michael–

    “Toxic Mars: Astronauts Must Deal with Perchlorate on the Red Planet”
    (2013)
    https://www.space.com/21554-mars-toxic-perchlorate-chemicals.html

    There is a terrestrial microbe that can eat perchlorates, but it’s toxic to everything else
    On the upside, you can make useful stuff out of the perchlorates, after you separate it out of the ‘ice.’

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Peroxides and perchlorates dissolve in ice/water. It will be necessary to distill the water before it can be used in a variety of applications. That should be relatively straightforward though, in engineering terms.

    I like the simplicity of using hydrolox in ISRU situations, but not the spacecraft complexity required, engineering tradeoffs and higher risk factors. You get engines with great performance, but spacecraft that lose huge amounts of payload fraction, compared to methalox. Luckily both methods are being pursued by various entities.

    It’ll be interesting to see how everyone’s engineering solutions pan out, both on Mars and the Moon.

  • wayne

    IIRC, the boiling point of water on Mars, is somewhere around 50 degrees (F).

  • Jeff Wright

    The first Starship need to be ‘stills’ with the LOX tank getting water and the methane tank getting the gunge. Now, what to do with the engines? I’d like to see a set up where they can be flipped so as to use ship tankage as a cauldron down the road. Artificial gravity spinners as material centrifuges. I am glad metal was used for the ship.

  • pzatchok

    Water extraction would be best done in pressurized areas possibly sealed off lava tubes.

    Each tube could then be used as farm, maintenance or manufacturing area.

    Plus there might just be far less peroxides and percolates inside the tubes.

  • Jeff Wright

    That’s probably right. There is one “hole” in the middle of a depressed crater like feature crying out to have a Starship land there like a central tower in a dish.

    As if the hand of Providence put it there…

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