NASA’s Perseverance rover turns a little bit of air from Mars into breathable oxygen

While the ultimate goal of Perseverance is to look for signs of ancient life on Mars, that hasn’t stopped the rover from doing other scientific work. On April 20, Perseverance successfully extracted carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere and converted it into oxygen, NASA announced wednesday. With a family portrait of his robotic siblings, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab equipped the rover with an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment or MOXIE to shorten it.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The toaster-sized tool allowed Perseverance to separate oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules by heating the gas to around 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit and creating carbon monoxide as a byproduct. When the instrument was first tested, it produced about five grams of oxygen, enough to give an isolated astronaut about 10 minutes of breathing air in his suit. According to NASA, the success of the experiment paves the way for future missions, especially those involving human astronauts, as the men and rockets that will transport them to and from the Red Planet need oxygen to function. According to NASA, a single rocket carrying four astronauts will need about 55,000 pounds of oxygen to take off. It is not possible to transport so much oxygen to Mars. This is where future versions of technology can help make the exploration of the planet viable.

The successful experiment follows another historic first for Perseverance and NASA. Earlier this week, the agency flew a plane to another planet when it completed the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. first test flight. Like MOXIE, Ingenuity is above all a proof of concept, but it opens the door for future planes to explore the red planet.

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