Nasa’s Moxie instrument successfully makes oxygen on Mars | Mars


A lunchbox-sized instrument has managed to generate breathing oxygen on Mars, doing the work of a small tree.

Since February last year, the Mars oxygen in-situ resource utilization experiment, or Moxie, has been successfully extracting oxygen from the red planet’s carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.

Researchers suggest that a scaled-up version of Moxie could be sent to Mars to continuously produce oxygen at the rate of several hundred trees before humans make it to the planet.

Moxie landed on the surface of Mars as part of NASA’s Perseverance rover mission.

In a study, researchers report that by the end of 2021, Moxie was able to produce oxygen on seven experimental runs, in a variety of atmospheric conditions, including daytime and nighttime, and during different Martian seasons.

In each run, it achieved its goal of producing 6 g of oxygen per hour — comparable to the rate of a modest tree on Earth.

It is hoped that at full capacity, the system can generate enough oxygen to support humans once they arrive on Mars, and fuel a rocket to bring humans back to Earth.

Jeffrey Hoffman, deputy principal investigator for Moxie, a professor of practice in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (MIT), said: “This is the first demonstration of actually using resources on the surface of another planetary body and chemically transforming them into something that would be useful for a human mission.”

The current version of the instrument is small in size to fit aboard the Perseverance rover, and is built to work for short periods of time. A full-fledged oxygen plant would include larger units that would ideally run continuously.

So far, Moxie has shown that it can make oxygen at almost any time of the Martian day and year.

Michael Hecht, principal investigator on the Moxie mission at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, said, “The only thing we haven’t shown is running at dawn or dusk, when the temperature changes significantly.

“We have an asset in store that allows us to do that, and once we test that in the lab, we can hit that final milestone to show that we can really run any moment.”

If the system can operate successfully despite repeated on and off, it would suggest that a full-scale system designed to operate continuously could do so for thousands of hours.

Hoffman said, “To support a human mission to Mars, we need to bring a lot of stuff from Earth, such as computers, spacesuits and habitats.

“But stupid old oxygen? If you can get there, go for it – you’re way ahead of the game.”

The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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