A benchmark achievement of mankind artificially synthesising oxygen in an extraterrestrial world for the first time ever. The achievement comes courtesy of Moxie, a tiny, toaster-sized instrument aboard the NASA Perseverance rover, which was tasked with a critical piece of experiment that may one day help mankind establish a colony on another planet.
The US space agency has announced that on Tuesday, a device aboard the rover was able to produce oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere for the first time – a development that has brought cheer among the scientific community, as it promises hope for future crewed missions that can rely on this technology for astronauts to breathe and return to Earth. In its first operation since arriving on the Red Planet, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) produced 5 grams of oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, enough for an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes. To produce oxygen, MOXIE separates oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules. It does so by using heat at a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius, and in the process also produces carbon monoxide as a waste product, which it releases in the Martian atmosphere.
A technology demonstrator, MOXIE is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour, and is placed inside the Perseverance rover. Over the next two years, MOXIE is expected to extract oxygen nine more times.