Perseverance, NASA’s new robot on the Red Planet, was successfully able to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere in its early attempts. The test was conducted on April 20th, using a small equipment aboard the Perseverance called Moxie which stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment.
Mars’ atmosphere constitutes primarily of 96% carbon dioxide and has a minuscule presence of 0.13% oxygen. The mission aims to extract oxygen from the planet itself to meet the demands of any future missions on Mars, instead of stocking oxygen from Earth to sustain the mission. Moxie functions to disintegrate oxygen molecules from carbon dioxide which is made of one carbon and two oxygen atoms to produce breathable oxygen. Carbon monoxide is the by-product that is released back into the Martian atmosphere.
NASA extracts oxygen from Mars to take a revolutionary step in the world of science for the benefit of human beings. A first of its kind, the team is devoted to build on this success and explore different ways to maximize its potential. NASA extracts oxygen with the expectation of producing as substantial a quantity as 10 grams of O2 per hour.
The strength of Moxie and this mission lies in its ability to use substances in their elemental form to produce useable things. A positive of this mission is that NASA extracts oxygen from Mars without causing any possible harm. This is done by converting abundant resources into forms that can be used separately, or when combined with other elements.
While the mission is an enormous challenge, the prospects are looking up because of the first successful attempt on NASA’s part. Moxie however is only a test model and building a model that can do this on a large scale will take time and resources. This technological demonstration is an initial step towards establishing a scientific route for a process that would have been fiction a few years back. Jim Reuter who is the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) made an important statement when he talked of the feat as “a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars.”
NASA extracts oxygen not just for breathing purposes but also because oxygen functions as propellants in rockets and can be used to facilitate the journey back to Earth. The oxygen produced will be a way for explorers to make a trip back home; oxygen being a necessity for both astronauts and rockets.
Moxie’s oxygen production trial is likely to have three phases. The first will characterize the efficiency of the instrument. The second phase will involve using the instrument in different atmospheric conditions to understand its working better. The third phase will include introducing new features to the operations being performed by the instrument.
NASA aims to take subsequent missions as a part of its Perseverance mission which was originally intended to search for microbial lifeforms on Mars. In conclusion, Moxie is a pathbreaking step in this vast, unexplored universe that holds infinite promises.