(ORDO NEWS) — The results of the experiment show that the Mars Oxygen In-Situ (MOXIE) instrument installed on the rover is capable of producing oxygen. Over the past year, the rover has produced oxygen seven times on the Red Planet.
As reported in the journal Science Advances, during the experiment, it was possible to obtain 6 grams of oxygen per hour, which corresponds to the volumes produced by a small tree on Earth.
This may seem like a modest result, but this technology is capable of accomplishing the ambitious task before us.
“This is the first demonstration of actually using resources on the surface of another planetary body and turning them chemically into something that would be useful for a human mission,” said MOXIE Deputy Principal Investigator Jeffrey Hoffman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
MOXIE is one of many Perseverance instruments and is therefore not designed to run continuously and produce oxygen. It takes a few hours to warm up and then get to work.
The Martian air is first filtered and then compressed. The air then passes through a solid oxide electrolyzer (SOXE), which breaks it down into carbon monoxide and oxygen. This process continues for an hour.
“The atmosphere on Mars is much more variable than on Earth,” Hoffman noted.
“The density of the air can change twice in a year, and the temperature can change by 100 degrees.
One of the goals is to show that we can work at any time of the year.”
MOXIE successfully produces oxygen during the autumn and winter months, as well as at various times of the day and night. The team hopes to test it in the spring when the atmosphere changes.
“The only thing we haven’t demonstrated is launching at dawn or dusk, when temperatures change significantly,” added MOXIE mission principal investigator Michael Hecht.
The goal of the experiment is to produce enough oxygen to supply several astronauts. It will also make it possible to produce fuel for the Mars Ascent spacecraft, which will take astronauts back to Earth.
An enlarged version of the MOXIE, producing 2 to 3 kilograms of oxygen per hour, would produce enough oxygen for a crew of six. A very realistic scenario confirming the feasibility of this approach.
The team is looking forward to testing MOXIE in the spring. With higher air densities, they plan to push the device to its limit and see how much oxygen it can produce.
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