On Wednesday, the US Space Agency announced a new achievement thanks to perseverance: NASA’s spacecraft has converted carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere into oxygen, for the first time on another planet.
“This is a significant first attempt to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s associate administrator.
The demo took place on April 20 and NASA hopes that future versions of the experimental tool used could pave the way for exploration by humans.
Not only can the process produce oxygen for future astronauts, but it can also block the large amounts of oxygen needed to propel the rocket on its return flight from Earth.
The Mars Oxygen Resource Experience (Moxie) is a gold box the size of a car battery, located in the right front of the rover.
It uses electricity and chemistry to split carbon dioxide molecules, and produce oxygen on one side and carbon monoxide on the other.
In his first experiment, Moxie produced 5 grams of oxygen, enough to breathe for 10 minutes for an astronaut having a normal activity.
The engineers in charge of Moxie will now perform more tests and try to increase this result. The tool was developed to be able to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.
Designed at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Moxie is constructed with refractory materials to withstand the scorching temperatures of 800 ° C required to operate it.
A thin layer of gold prevents this heat from radiating and damaging the rover.
According to Michael Hecht, a MIT engineer, a ton of Moxie – which weighs 17 kilograms – can produce roughly 25 tons of oxygen needed to take off a rocket from Mars.
Producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, which is 96% carbon dioxide, may be easier than extracting ice from below its surface to produce oxygen by electrolysis.
The Perseverance landed on the Red Planet on February 18th. Its mission: to search for traces of ancient life.