An experiment onboard NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has extracted breathable oxygen from carbon dioxide for the very first time on an extraterrestrial world. The milestone is an important proof-of-concept for more advanced technologies that will be necessary to support human exploration of the red planet in the future.
The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) is about the size of a shoebox and sits near the front of Perseverance’s frame. MOXIE sucks in Martian air, which is 96 percent carbon dioxide, heats it up to about 1,470°F (800°C), and plucks the oxygen atoms out of the carbon dioxide using a process called solid oxide electrolysis.
Scientists have been eager to demonstrate onsite oxygen production on Mars for decades, but MOXIE is the first experiment that actually has made it to the red planet. On April 20, this long-time dream became a reality as MOXIE successfully produced about five grams of oxygen, enough to keep an astronaut alive for 10 minutes.
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