NASA extracts breathable oxygen from thin Martian air

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NASA has logged one other extraterrestrial first on its newest mission to Mars: changing carbon dioxide from the Martian environment into pure, breathable oxygen, the U.S. house company stated on Wednesday.

The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, actually out of thin air on Mars, was achieved Tuesday by an experimental machine aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red Planet Feb. 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.

In its first activation, the toaster-sized instrument dubbed MOXIE, brief for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, produced about 5 grams of oxygen, equal to roughly 10 minutes’ value of respiration for an astronaut, NASA stated.

Although the preliminary output was modest, the feat marked the primary experimental extraction of a pure assets from the atmosphere of one other planet for direct use by people.

“MOXIE isn’t just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world,” Trudy Kortes, director of know-how demonstrations inside NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, stated in a press release. She known as it the primary know-how of its variety to assist future missions “live off the land” of one other planet.

The instrument works by electrolysis, which makes use of excessive warmth to separate oxygen atoms from molecules of carbon dioxide, which accounts for about 95% of the environment on Mars.

The remaining 5% of Mars’ environment, which is barely about 1% as dense Earth’s, consists primarily of molecular nitrogen and argon. Oxygen exists on Mars in negligible hint quantities.

But an plentiful provide is taken into account essential to eventual human exploration of the Red Planet, each as a sustainable supply of breathable air for astronauts and as a crucial ingredient for rocket gas to fly them residence.

The volumes required for launching rockets into house from Mars are significantly daunting.

According to NASA, getting 4 astronauts off the Martian floor would take about 15,000 kilos (7 metric tons) of rocket gas, mixed with 55,000 kilos (25 metric tons) of oxygen.

Transporting a one-ton oxygen-conversion machine to Mars is extra sensible than making an attempt to haul 25 tons of oxygen in tanks from Earth, MOXIE principal investigator Michael Hecht, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated in NASA’s information launch.

Astronauts dwelling and dealing on Mars would require maybe one metric ton of oxygen between them to final a whole yr, Hecht stated.

MOXIE is designed to generate as much as 10 grams per hour as a proof of idea, and scientists plan to run the machine at the very least one other 9 instances over the following two years below totally different situations and speeds, NASA stated.

The first oxygen conversion run got here a day after NASA achieved the historic first managed powered flight of an plane on one other planet with a profitable takeoff and touchdown of a miniature robotic helicopter on Mars.

Like MOXIE, the twin-rotor chopper dubbed Ingenuity hitched a journey to Mars with Perseverance, whose main mission is to seek for fossilized traces of historical microbes which will have flourished on Mars billions of years in the past.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles)

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