A successful instrument on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has been deemed a mission success after producing enough oxygen for a small dog to breathe for nearly 10 hours.
The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, is a microwave-sized instrument that takes the unbreathable Martian air and turns it into oxygen, which humans – and dogs – rely on.
The team behind the experimental device recently revealed that MOXIE has been working like a dream since Percy landed on Mars.
MOXIE has generated 122 grams of oxygen since 2021, producing approximately 12 grams of oxygen per hour.
Because NASA knows we love a good animal analogy, the space agency said it’s enough for a small dog to breathe for about 10 hours.
This may not seem like a lot, but it is more than double NASA’s initial goal for MOXIE.
Oxygen is also 98% purity or better.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas at two times of day on April 8, 2023. NASA/JPL-Caltech This NASA file photo released June 7, 2018, shows a low-angle self-portrait. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover vehicle is at the spot where it touched down to drill into a rock target called “Buckskin” on lower Mount Sharp. AFP/Getty Images
NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said, “Moxie’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Mars atmosphere – oxygen that could help supply breathable air or rocket propellant to future astronauts. ” “Developing technologies that let us harness resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to building a long-term lunar presence, building a strong lunar economy, and allowing us to support an initial human exploration mission to Mars.”
MOXIE works through an electrochemical process, separating carbon dioxide molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide molecules.
According to NASA, as these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to check the purity and quantity of oxygen produced.
In this March 4, 2021 image, wheel tread marks are left in the soil of Jezero Crater on Mars as NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance walks on the surface of Mars for the first time. Via Reuters The Perseverance rover can be seen in a “selfie” that it captured of a rock nicknamed “Rochet” on September 10, 2021. via reuters
This achievement is exciting because when humans travel to Mars, they will be able to create oxygen and fuel on the Red Planet instead of taking all of their resources with them.
Using materials from the land to survive is a technique called in-situ resource utilization or ISRU.
Moxie principal investigator Michael Hecht of MIT said the tool has inspired the ISRU community.
This NASA illustration shows a simulated view of NASA’s interior exploration using seismic probes, geodesy, and a heat transport lander that fires retrorockets to decelerate while descending toward the surface of Mars. AFP/Getty Images NASA’s Perseverance rover is seen on Mars in an undated illustration provided. By the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. via Reuters
“It shows that NASA is willing to invest in these types of future technologies. And it has been a flagship that has impacted the exciting industry of space resources,” Hecht said.
This concept can be used to create a full-scale system like MOXIE with an oxygen generator and a way to store the produced oxygen.
NASA shared audio of MOXIE’s air compressor in action on the Red Planet.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas at two times of day on April 8, 2023. reuters
Listen to Equipment Pumping on Mars below.
On August 7, MOXIE generated oxygen for the 16th and final time on the rover before the termination of operations.