MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a microwave-oven-size device aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, has generated oxygen for the 16th and final time. The instrument has been far more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expected, producing a total of 122 grams of oxygen since Perseverance landed on Mars in 2021. At its most efficient, MOXIE was able to produce 12 grams of oxygen an hour – twice as much as NASA’s original goals for the instrument – at 98% purity or better. On its 16th run, on Aug. 7, the instrument made 9.8 grams of oxygen. MOXIE successfully completed all of its technical requirements and was operated at a variety of conditions throughout a full Mars year, allowing the instrument’s developers to learn a great deal about the technology. MOXIE.jpg 1200 x 720
NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said that “MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is feasible to extract oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere – oxygen that could help supply breathable air or rocket propellant to future astronauts.” Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations, Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, which funds the MOXIE demonstration, expressed pride in supporting “a breakthrough technology like MOXIE that could turn local resources into useful products for future exploration missions.” “By proving this technology in real-world conditions, we’ve come one step closer to a future in which astronauts ‘live off the land’ on the Red Planet.”
MOXIE produces molecular oxygen through an electrochemical process that separates one oxygen atom from each molecule of carbon dioxide pumped in from Mars’ thin atmosphere. The purity and quantity of the oxygen produced are analyzed as the gases flow through the system.
While many of Perseverance’s experiments are addressing the mission’s primary science goals, MOXIE was focused on future human exploration. MOXIE served as the first-ever demonstration of technology that humans could use to survive on and leave the Red Planet. An oxygen-producing system could help future missions in various ways, but the most important of them would be as a source of rocket propellant, which would be required in industrial quantities to launch rockets with astronauts for their return trip home.
Rather than bringing large quantities of oxygen with them to Mars, future astronauts could live off the land, using materials they find on the planet’s surface to survive. This concept – called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) – has evolved into a growing area of research. MOXIE has served as inspiration to the ISRU community and has influenced the exciting industry of space resources.
Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
The Perseverance rover was built and is operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California.
JPL manages the MOXIE project for the Technology Demonstration Missions program within STMD. MOXIE was also supported by NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate.
Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment – Wikipedia
MOXIE – NASA
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