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NASA stops oxygen production on Mars

NASA stops oxygen production on Mars

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The Moxie is about the size of a toaster and is housed inside NASA’s Perseverance rover. On Mars, oxygen is extracted from the air. (File photo) © NASA/JPL Caltech

Oxygen production on Mars aims to simplify human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA shows that this can actually work.

WASHINGTON, DC – NASA’s Perseverance rover has been rolling over Mars for two and a half years, and it seems far from giving up. Its little companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, also continues to fly over the Red Planet. But now the research community has to deposit a very important tool aboard Perseverance: the “Moxie” (In Situ Mars Oxygen Resource Utilization Experiment). This is a toaster-sized device that was intended to produce oxygen on Mars as a technology demonstration.

The experiment was a success – and how: “Moxie” has been active on Mars 16 times and extracted a total of 122 grams of oxygen from Mars’ thin atmosphere. According to NASA, this is the amount of oxygen consumed by a small dog in ten hours. But now oxygen production on Mars has ended.

NASA: Oxygen production on Mars was a success

“Moxie’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, oxygen that could help provide future astronauts with breathing air or rocket fuel,” NASA vice president Pam Milroy said in a statement. notice At the end of the technology presentation. “Developing technologies that allow us to exploit resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to establishing a long-term presence on the Moon, creating a robust lunar economy, and supporting the first human exploration campaign to Mars.”

According to NASA, the Mars instrument met all technical requirements and operated under the most diverse conditions during the Martian year. The developers of the tool have learned a lot about the technology. But the raw numbers are also impressive: according to this, Moxie produced 12 grams of oxygen per hour at one point – double what was already expected. The device’s last launch on August 7 produced 9.8 grams of oxygen.

The Mars crew can produce their own oxygen

“By testing this technology under real-world conditions, we are one step closer to a future in which astronauts live outside Earth on the Red Planet,” says NASA employee Trudy Curtis. Because that’s the background to the technology pitch: If people one day travel to Mars, they’d better bring as little oxygen with them as possible. After all, each kilogram of freight costs a lot of money and requires space, which is expensive. Whatever can be produced locally must be produced there.

Producing oxygen in situ would be practical for space travel for two reasons: After all, a future Martian crew not only needs oxygen to breathe, but also as rocket fuel. The amounts of oxygen produced by “Moxie” are far from sufficient for a human crew on Mars. According to NASA, 25 to 30 tons of oxygen are needed for liftoff from Mars alone. In addition, there is the oxygen needed for respiration.

NASA is happy to experiment with oxygen on Mars

No matter how happy you are at NASA, it is clear that the next step will not be to build a larger “Moxie 2.0” – it will be a system that contains an oxygen generator like the “Moxie” and also makes it possible to supply oxygen to it. It is said to monetize and store.

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The scientist behind the instrument, Michael Hecht (MIT), now wants to see that other technologies also get their chance on Mars. “We have to make decisions about what things to validate on Mars,” he explains in a NASA statement. “I think there are a lot of technologies on this list; I’m so glad “Moxie” was the first.” (tab)