NASA’s Rover Is Taking a Tree-Like System That Converts CO2 Into Oxygen to Mars

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 30 July, carrying a number of cutting-edge expertise together with high-definition video gear and the first interplanetary helicopter.


Lots of the instruments are designed as experimental steps towards human exploration of the purple planet. Crucially, Perseverance is provided with a tool referred to as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE: an try to supply oxygen on a planet the place it makes up lower than zero.2 % of the environment.

Oxygen is a cumbersome payload on area missions. It takes up numerous room, and it is impossible that astronauts may carry sufficient of it to Mars for people to breathe there, not to mention to gasoline spaceships for the lengthy journey residence.

That is the issue MOXIE is seeking to remedy. The car-battery-sized robotic is a roughly 1 % scale mannequin of the machine scientists hope to at some point ship to Mars, maybe within the 2030s.

Like a tree, MOXIE works by taking in carbon dioxide, although it is designed particularly for the skinny Martian environment. It then electrochemically splits the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and combines the oxygen molecules into O2.

It analyses the O2 for purity, capturing for about 99.6 % O2. Then it releases each the breathable oxygen and the carbon monoxide again into the planet’s environment. Future scaled-up gadgets, nevertheless, would retailer the oxygen produced in tanks for eventual use by people and rockets.

A breakdown of the elements contained in the MOXIE oxygen generator. (NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

The toxicity of the carbon monoxide produced is not a fear, based on Michael Hecht, a principal investigator for MOXIE. The fuel reenters the Martian environment however will not alter it very a lot.

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“Should you launch the carbon monoxide into the Mars environment, ultimately it’ll mix with a really small quantity of residual oxygen that is there and switch again into carbon dioxide,” Hecht beforehand instructed Enterprise Insider.


For that purpose, the carbon monoxide additionally would not hinder a possible biosphere on Mars – a closed, engineered surroundings the place Earthly life may thrive.

As a result of MOXIE is a small proof-of-concept experiment, it will not produce a lot oxygen – if all goes effectively, it must be producing about 10 grams per hour, which is roughly the quantity of oxygen in 1.2 cubic ft of Earth air. For context, people want about 19 cubic ft of air per day.

MOXIE will check its capabilities by producing oxygen in one-hour increments intermittently all through the length of Perseverance’s mission, based on NASA. The machine ought to begin working quickly after the rover lands on 18 February 2021.

This text was initially revealed by Enterprise Insider.

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