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NASA is now able to produce oxygen on Mars giving hope to human exploration of the planet

NASA is now able to produce oxygen on Mars giving hope to human exploration of the planet

Enough oxygen was created to sustain an astronaut for a few hours

NASA has produced enough oxygen on Mars to sustain an astronaut for a few hours, bringing the chance of human exploration of the planet a step closer.

The US space agency sent up its Perseverance rover back in May 2021 and since then it has periodically generated small amounts of oxygen with its Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment or ‘MOXIE’ instrument on board.

The MOXIE, which is smaller than your average microwave, is able to make molecular oxygen by separating one oxygen atom from each molecule of carbon dioxide it has collected from Mars’ atmosphere.

The instrument has made 122 grams of oxygen in total, which is enough to sustain an astronaut for three hours and 40 minutes.

At its peak, MOXIE was able to create 12g of oxygen in an hour, which was around double what NASA had aimed for; the oxygen created was also at least 98 percent purity.

Scientists are hopeful that future versions of MOXIE could stockpile oxygen, offering a steady supply to astronauts or to help make fuel to return to Earth. Exciting, right?

MOXIE has exceeded its creators' estimations.

Jeff Hoffman, MOXIE Deputy Principal Investigator, stressed the importance of a supply of oxygen for future exploration plans.

He said: "To support a human mission to Mars, we have to bring a lot of stuff from Earth, like computers, spacesuits, and habitats. But oxygen? If you can make it there, go for it — you're way ahead of the game."

The gold-coloured cube has exceeded the expectations of its creators at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy said: “MOXIE's impressive performance shows that it is feasible to extract oxygen from Mars' atmosphere – oxygen that could help supply breathable air or rocket propellant to future astronauts.

The device is located on the Perseverance rover.

“Developing technologies that let us use resources on the moon and Mars is critical to build a long-term lunar presence, create a robust lunar economy, and allow us to support an initial human exploration campaign to Mars.”

Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations, Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “By proving this technology in real-world conditions, we’ve come one step closer to a future in which astronauts ‘live off the land’ on the Red Planet.”

However, now that the experiment has been carried out MOXIE is set for retirement with its operations on the Red Planet drawing to a close.

While MOXIE may be out of action, for now Perseverance will continue as it was.

Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / NASA/JPL-Caltech

Topics: NASA, Science, Space