By riding with the Perseverance rover, the instrument has proven to be a viable technology for astronauts Mars To produce oxygen for fuel and respiration.
When the first astronauts land on Mars, their descendants may have a device the size of a microwave oven, thanks to the air they breathe and the rocket fuel that brings them home.
This device, called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen Resource Utilization Experiment), generated oxygen for the 16th and final time on board. NASARover Perseverance. After the tool proved much more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Expectedly, its operations will end.
“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere — oxygen that could help provide breathable air or rocket fuel for future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy. “Developing technologies that allow us to utilize resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to building a long-term lunar presence, creating a robust lunar economy, and allowing us to support an initial human exploration campaign to Mars.”
Since Perseverance landed on Mars in 2021, MOXIE has produced a total of 122 grams of oxygen, about as much as a small dog breathes in 10 hours. MOXIE, at its highest efficiency, was capable of producing 12 grams of oxygen per hour—twice the original goals set by NASA for the instrument—at a purity of 98% or better.
On the 16th run, on August 7, the device produced 9.8 grams of oxygen. MOXIE successfully completed all of its technical requirements and was operated in a variety of conditions throughout an entire Martian year, allowing the instrument’s developers to learn a lot about the technology.
Innovative technology for future explorations
“We are proud to support advanced technology like MOXIE that can turn domestic resources into useful products for future exploration missions,” said Trudy Curtis, technology demonstration manager for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Funds the MOXIE demonstration. “By proving this technology in real-world conditions, we are one step closer to a future in which astronauts live beyond Earth on the Red Planet.”
MOXIE produces molecular oxygen through an electrochemical process that separates out single oxygen corn of every molecule of carbon dioxide pumped out of Mars’ thin atmosphere. As these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to check the purity and quantity of oxygen produced.
Leadership in the use of Martian resources
While many of Perseverance’s experiments address the basic science goals of the mission, MOXIE has focused on future human exploration. MOXIE was the first-ever demonstration of the technology humans could use to stay on and leave the Red Planet. The oxygen production system could aid future missions in various ways, but the main one will be as a source of rocket fuel, which will be needed in industrial quantities to launch rockets with the astronauts on their journey home.
Instead of bringing large quantities of oxygen with them to Mars, future astronauts could live off Earth, using the materials they find on the planet’s surface to survive. This concept — called In situ resource utilization, or ISRU — has evolved into a growing area of research.
“MOXIE clearly served as an inspiration to the ISRU community,” said the tool’s principal investigator, Michael Hecht of MIT. “It showed that NASA is willing to invest in this kind of future technology. It was a pioneer that influenced the exciting space resource industry.
The next step won’t be building MOXIE 2.0, though Hecht and his team have learned a lot about how to design a more efficient version of the tool. Rather, it would be a large-scale system that would include an oxygen generator like MOXIE and a way to liquefy that oxygen and store it.
But more than anything else, Hecht would like to see other technologies take a turn on Mars. “We have to make decisions about things to validate on Mars,” Hecht said. “I think there are many technologies on that list; I’m so glad MOXIE was the first.
More about the mission
The main goal of the Mars Perseverance mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will describe the planet’s geology and past climate, set the stage for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regolith (broken rocks and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA)European Space Agency), a spacecraft will be sent to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Manages the MOXIE Project for the Technology Demonstration Assignment Program within STMD. MOXIE was also supported by NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate and Science Mission Directorate.
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