NASA has announced that it has successfully completed its mission to generate oxygen on Mars. Using the Perseverance rover, NASA managed to generate the element needed for breathing and for fuel, all as part of its efforts to prove that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Red Planet’s atmosphere. Using a device called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), NASA’s deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, explained:
“MOXIE’s impressive achievements show that it is feasible to extract oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere – oxygen that can help provide breathable air or rocket fuel to future astronauts. Developing technologies that allow us to use resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to building a long-term lunar presence, creating a robust lunar economy and enabling us to support a first human exploration campaign to Mars. “
As for how MOXIE manages to extract oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars, we are told that it is an electrochemical process that separates one oxygen atom from each carbon dioxide molecule from the atmosphere and then analyzes and monitors it to ensure that it has reached the amount and purity needed.
In terms of what NASA plans to use this breakthrough for, there is mention of using the system so that future missions will not have to carry as much fuel on trips, as MOXIE could potentially create the oxygen needed when astronauts want to return home. This, of course, is in addition to serving as a way to create an oxygen-producing system for astronauts themselves.