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NASA extracts breathable oxygen from Mars’ thin air

NASA said on Wednesday that it had recorded extraterrestrial life for the first time in its latest mission to Mars: the conversion of carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure breathable oxygen.

On Tuesday, an experimental device on the Perseverance achieved unprecedented oxygen extraction, which was actually extracted from the thin air on Mars. The Perseverance is a six-wheeled scientific rover that landed on the Red Planet on February 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that when it was first activated, this electric oven-sized instrument called MOXIE produced about 5 grams of oxygen, which is equivalent to an astronaut breathing for about 10 minutes. This is an experiment on the use of Mars oxygen resources Abbreviation.

Although the initial output was not high, this feat marked the first experimental extraction of a natural resource from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans.

Trudy Kortes, Director of Technology Demonstration of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Division, said in a statement: “MOXIE is not only the first instrument to generate oxygen in another world,” she called it The first technology of its kind to help future missions survive “on another planet.”

The instrument works by electrolysis, which uses extremely high heat to separate oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules, which make up about 95% of the Martian atmosphere.

The remaining 5% of the Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of the dense Earth, is mainly composed of molecular nitrogen and argon. The amount of oxygen on Mars is negligible.

However, adequate supplies are considered essential to human beings’ ultimate exploration of the Red Planet. It is not only a source of sustainable breathing air for astronauts, but also a necessary ingredient for rocket fuel to send them home.

The volume required to launch a rocket from Mars to a space rocket is particularly difficult.

According to NASA, taking four astronauts from the surface of Mars will require approximately 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen.

MIT’s MOXIE lead researcher, Michael Hecht, said in a NASA press release that transporting a one-ton oxygen conversion machine to Mars is more practical than trying to haul 25 tons of oxygen from Earth.

Hirscht said that between astronauts living and working on Mars, it may take a metric ton of oxygen to last a full year.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration stated that MOXIE aims to produce up to 10 grams per hour, which is a proof of concept. Scientists plan to run the machine at least 9 more times under different conditions and speeds in the next two years.

The first oxygen conversion operation was the day after NASA successfully completed the historic first airplane controlled flight on another planet, and successfully completed the take-off and landing of the micro-robot helicopter on Mars.

Like MOXIE, the double-rotor chopper called Ingenuity hitchhiked to Mars with perseverance. Its main task is to find fossilized traces of ancient microorganisms that may have flourished on Mars billions of years ago.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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