NASA’s Perseverance roar continues to make history. The six-wheeled robot has converted some carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen, the first time this has happened on another planet, the space agency said Wednesday.
“This is a critical first step in converting carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s space technology mission directorate.
The technology demonstration took place on April 20, and it is hoped that future versions of the experimental tool used could pave the way for future human exploration.
Not only can the oxygen production process for future astronauts breathe, but it could make the transportation of large amounts of oxygen over to Earth for use as a rocket driver for the journey back unnecessary.
Mars In-Situ Oxygen Resource Use Experiment – or MOXIE – is a golden box the size of a car battery, and is located inside the front right side of the rover.
Known as the “mechanical tree,” it uses electricity and chemistry to divide carbon dioxide molecules, which include one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms.
It also produces carbon monoxide as a by-product.
In its first run, MOXIE produced 5 grams of oxygen, equivalent to about 10 minutes of inhaled oxygen for an astronaut carrying out normal activity.
MOXIE engineers will now conduct more tests and try to increase its output. It is designed to be capable of producing up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.
Designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MOXIE was built with heat-resistant materials such as nickel alloy and is designed to tolerate the 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 Celsius) probe temperatures required to run.
A thin gold coating ensures that it does not radiate its heat and damages the stray.
MIT engineer Michael Hecht said a one-ton version of MOXIE could produce the approximately 55,000 pounds (25 tonnes) of oxygen needed for a rocket to explode from Mars.
Generating oxygen from Mars’ 96 per cent carbon dioxide atmosphere might be a more viable option than pulling ice below its surface and then electrifying it to make oxygen.
Persistence landed on the Red Planet on February 18 on a mission to search for signs for microbial life.
His Ingenuity mini helicopter made history this week by performing the first power flight on another planet.
The rover itself has also recorded Mars sounds directly for the first time.
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