NASA Rover Makes Enough Breathing Oxygen on Mars to Support a Dog in 10 Hours - IGN

NASA Rover Makes Enough Breathing Oxygen on Mars to Support a Dog in 10 Hours – IGN

NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully completed an experiment designed to create oxygen on Mars, using a technique that could one day provide astronauts with breathable air, and be used as a key ingredient in rocket fuel for the return journey.

Humanity is looking to expand deeper into the solar system, first by establishing a permanent base on the Moon, before finally setting human boots on Mars for the first time in the short history of our species. For this to become a reality, both NASA and its partners must develop new technologies that will use the natural resources of the distant world to ensure that future missions are as self-reliant as possible.

Another major problem facing astronauts visiting Mars is making sure they have enough air to breathe. Oxygen on Earth is very abundant, making up about 21 percent of the atmosphere. However, the gas shell covering Mars is composed of less than one percent oxygen, and 96 percent carbon dioxide, with nitrogen, argon and many other gases making up the remainder.

Enter NASA’s Perseverance rover, which entered Jezero Crater on Mars in 2021 carrying a tech demo called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, for short. MOXIE is a microwave-sized device that uses a device called an electrolyzer to split carbon dioxide particles harvested from the Martian atmosphere into pure oxygen, and waste products such as carbon monoxide.

The technology demo has been in the works for a while since shortly after the rover made its 2021 landing, and it just completed its 16th and final run early last month. MOXIE was able to produce oxygen at a rate of about 12 grams per hour, and has now produced 122 grams of precious gas in total.

The amount created, which is about as much as a small dog breathes in 10 hours, according to NASA, was twice as much as what scientists had originally aimed for, and had a minimum purity of 98 percent. Besides breathing, oxygen can also be used as a key ingredient in the creation of rocket fuel, unless astronauts are stuck on the Red Planet forever, or forced to wait for resupply from Earth.

“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars – oxygen that could help provide breathing air or rocket propellant for future astronauts,” explained NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Developing the technology that allows us to use resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to building a long-term lunar presence, creating a strong lunar economy, and allowing us to support the first human exploration mission to Mars.”

NASA estimates that astronauts will need about 25 to 30 tons of oxygen to create the fuel needed to launch from the surface of the Red Planet on the journey back to Earth. Because of this, a much larger version of MOXIE will be needed to power future Mars missions, alongside a host of other technologies that will be developed and tested on Earth, and the Moon in the coming decades.

Anthony is a freelance contributor who covers science news and gaming video for IGN. He has over eight years of experience covering developments in many scientific fields and has absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

#NASA #Rover #Breathing #Oxygen #Mars #Support #Dog #Hours #IGN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *