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NASA’s Perseverance mission extracts oxygen on Mars

Date: 23 April 2021 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA has announced that a device aboard the Perseverance rover has been able to produce oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere for the first time.

 

Background

The Mars 2020 mission is full of new achievements. This mission also included flying a helicopter outside the Earth for the first time.

 

Details

This new technology can ensure that future astronauts can produce oxygen on surface of Mars and breathe it without depending on oxygen tanks.

 

Oxygen production

  • The device is called as Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) and was able to produce about 5grams of oxygen from Martian carbon dioxide.

  • Mars’ atmosphere contains about 96 percent of carbon dioxide and only about 0.13 percent of oxygen. The device inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen.

  • The MOXIE separated oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide using heat at temperature of about 800 degree Celcius. The by-product is carbon monoxide.

  • The size of MOXIE is about a battery of a car and can generate oxygen of about 10 grams per hour in Martian atmosphere.

 

Significance

  • A large amount of oxygen is needed for crews to breathe when they visit Mars for mission. In addition, oxygen is also needed for rockets to use as fuel.

  • Carrying such a large amount of oxygen from Earth would be unfeasible and also costly. It would be better if oxygen is produced on surface of Mars.

  • However, the MOXIE device has to be 100 times larger if it needs to produce oxygen that can support future human missions.

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