NASA extracts breathable oxygen from thin Martian air

  • 1 year ago
NASA extracts breathable oxygen from thin Martian air
NASA has logged another extraterrestrial first on its latest mission to Mars: converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the U.S. space agency said on Wednesday.
 
The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, literally out of thin air on Mars, was achieved Tuesday by an experimental device aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red Planet Feb. 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.
 
In its first activation, the toaster-sized instrument dubbed MOXIE, short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, produced about 5 grams of oxygen, equivalent to roughly 10 minutes' worth of breathing for an astronaut, NASA said.
 
Although the initial output was modest, the feat marked the first experimental extraction of a natural resources from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans.
 
"MOXIE isn't just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world," Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. She called it the first technology of its kind to help future missions "live off the land" of another planet.
 
The instrument works through electrolysis, which uses extreme heat to separate oxygen atoms from molecules of carbon dioxide, which accounts for about 95% of the atmosphere on Mars.
 
The remaining 5% of Mars' atmosphere, which is only about 1% as dense Earth's, consists primarily of molecular nitrogen and argon. Oxygen exists on Mars in negligible trace amounts.
 
But an abundant supply is considered critical to eventual human exploration of the Red Planet, both as a sustainable source of breathable air for astronauts and as a necessary ingredient for rocket fuel to fly them home.
 
 
Source: Reuters

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