The NASA Perseverance rover has created a new piece of history by generating oxygen while on Mars surface, marking a new benchmark of achievements for space explorations in future. The feat, which was announced by NASA earlier today, comes a day after the first controlled helicopter flight of the NASA Ingenuity robot on Martian surface. While the latter will help progress how mankind explores outer worlds, the former is even more pivotal because one day, based on these progresses, mankind may finally prepare to reach other worlds and create habitable environments.
The achievement at hand was made by a tiny, toaster sized device called Moxie, an acronym for the Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilisation Experiment. The latter first used its apparatus to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide from the thin layer of air above the Mars surface. Once captured, Moxie used its purification and separation filters to purify the atmospheric carbon dioxide, and then apply heat to separate the oxygen molecules – leaving carbon monoxide behind as residue. According to the data released by NASA, Moxie could produce 5.4 grams of oxygen in one hour – just about enough for one human to breathe for about 10 minutes.
Jim Reuter, associate director for NASA’s space technology mission directorate, said upon the achievement, “This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars. Moxie has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars. Oxygen isn’t just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home.”
According to NASA, Moxie can produce up to 12 grams of oxygen per hour, which is about the same synthesis rate as a tree. Over the next two years, Moxie will reach its full potential across 10 experiments, spread across three phases during the mission. The first phase of it will be spent in instrument characterisation, while during the second phase, Moxie will attempt oxygen synthesis in various atmospheric conditions such as different martian seasons and sunlight intensities. The third phase of the mission will involve Moxie attempting various operation modes in order to maximise the scope of oxygen production on the red planet.
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