NASA has recorded another precedent outside Earth during its latest mission to Mars: converting carbon dioxide from the red planet’s atmosphere into oxygen.
The US Aeronautics and Space Administration “NASA” said it has set another precedent outside Earth during its latest mission to Mars, which is converting carbon dioxide from the red planet’s atmosphere into pure oxygen that can be breathed.
The unprecedented extraction of oxygen from the thin air of Mars was achieved on Tuesday by an experimental device aboard the six-wheeled Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on February 18 after a seven-month flight from Earth.
NASA said Wednesday that the device, which is about the size of a toaster and is known as a moxie, produced about five grams of oxygen, enough for an astronaut to breathe for about 10 minutes.
Despite the modesty of the initial product, the feat marked the first experimental extraction of natural resources from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans.
“Moxie is not just the first tool for producing oxygen in another world,” Trudy Curtis, an official in the NASA Space Mission Technology Department, said in a statement. She described it as the first technology of its kind to help future missions “live on (what yours) land” on another planet.
The device works through electrolysis, which uses intense heat to separate oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules, which make up about 95 percent of the Martian atmosphere.
The remaining five percent in the Martian air is made up primarily of molecular nitrogen and argon. Oxygen is present, but in negligible amounts.
But the availability of an abundant amount of oxygen is vital to humans’ exploration of the red planet as a sustainable source of air that astronauts can breathe and a necessary component of the rocket fuel needed to bring them back to Earth.
NASA says that the landing of four astronauts on the surface of Mars will require about seven metric tons of rocket fuel in addition to 25 metric tons of oxygen.