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A lunchbox-sized instrument on Mars produces oxygen like a tree on Earth

A lunchbox-sized instrument on Mars produces oxygen like a tree on Earth

The next planet mankind hopes to colonize is Mars, which is known for its harsh climate, freezing temperatures, and toxic air. However, their machines are laying the groundwork before their arrival.

One of the most successful missions from Earth has been the Perseverance rover, which is currently trundling in the Jazero crater and has broken a new record by producing oxygen seven times in the past year on a planet designed to prevent breathing.

The rover has created breathable air on the lifeless planet using the lunchbox-sized Moxie, much like a little tree would on Earth. According to research on Moxie, it can produce oxygen continually by using the planet’s atmosphere, which is rich in carbon dioxide.

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (Moxie) has enjoyed the severe winters in the Jazero crater because cold nights with high atmospheric pressure produce the highest air density, and the more CO2 Moxie has to work with, the more oxygen it can produce.

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) sensor is being carefully lowered into the Perseverance rover’s belly by technicians working in a clean room. 

Nearly 10 grams of oxygen are produced every hour by the 17.1-kilogram instrument. “We’re always extremely cautious about designing runs for the irreplaceable flight model on Mars, but we pushed the envelope a little this time to briefly produce oxygen at a rate of nearly 10.5 grams per hour,” the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the rover on Mars said in a blog update.

It is worth mentioning that if this production was doubled “a human being could survive on it.”

“We have a long way to go before being able to make the 2 to 3 kilograms per hour that will be needed to make the tens of tons of propellant to lift a human crew of four to six astronauts off the surface of Mars and into orbit the main goal of future oxygen generation technology to succeed MOXIE,” JPL added.

In their paper, researchers described the many planet conditions and circumstances in which they were able to produce oxygen. In each effort, they were successful in producing 6 grams of oxygen every hour, which is similar to the rate of an average tree on Earth.

“We are learning how to make the next Moxie a lot more power efficient. Right now, we only use about 10 percent of our power to generate oxygen. In a full-scale version, we expect to use more like 90 percent of the power,” JPL said.

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