NASA's Perseverance rover can make oxygen out of Martian air
The goal of putting humans on Mars is now one step closer
Visions of humans on Mars are now one step closer to reality. The Perseverance rover, which has already and , recently made another historic first—extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.
Last month, the rover fired up one of its experiments known as Like the Ingenuity helicopter, this experiment is a technology demonstration, where scientists try something entirely new and never before attempted as part of a larger space mission.
Inside the small metal box that is MOXIE, Martian air was heated to almost splitting carbon dioxide (CO2) into one carbon monoxide (CO) and one oxygen atom (O). Mars’s atmosphere is , so there’s plenty to use there! In its first hour-long test, MOXIE . Scientists will run a few more tests with MOXIE during the rest of the rover’s mission, trying to see how much oxygen it can make and how fast.
MOXIE addresses two huge challenges in human space exploration on Mars — finding enough breathable air for astronauts to stay alive, and bringing enough fuel for the rockets to make a return trip to Earth. Oxygen is a key part of rocket fuel, and Missions to Mars can’t just carry that much oxygen to Mars for the whole trip — it would make the payloads too heavy. MOXIE only weighs about 17 pounds, so future technology like this could help cut down the weight we have to haul with us on trips to Mars.
Even if Mars won’t , this experiment made a huge leap forward for our prospects of visiting the Red Planet.