Mars’ atmosphere is dominated by carbon dioxide (CO₂) at a concentration of 96%. Oxygen is only 0.13%, compared with 21% in the Earth’s atmosphere. In the second successful technology demonstration on the NASA’s mission on Mars, an instrument on Perseverance rover on Mars, called Moxie (the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) has made oxygen from the planet’s carbon dioxide. The instrument is about the size of a toaster. Moxie is able to strip oxygen atoms from CO₂molecules, which are made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. This conversion process requires temperatures reaching 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit. It made 5.4 grams of the gas – equivalent to what an astronaut at Mars would need to breathe for roughly 10 minutes.
The Nasa team behind Moxie is running the unit in different modes to discover how well it works. It’s suposed that a such technology will be used by human missions on Mars in the future. Bigger and better versions of something like MOXIE in the future could even convert and store oxygen needed for rocket fuel. In order to launch four astronauts from the surface of Mars, about 15,000 pounds of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds of oxygen would be required.“Moxie isn’t just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world, it’s the first technology of its kind that will help future missions ‘live off the land’, using elements of another world’s environment, also known as in-situ resource utilisation,” said Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.