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Aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, MOXIE creates oxygen on Mars

Astronomy and Space

Aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, MOXIE creates oxygen on Mars

The oxygen production process starts with carbon dioxide intake; inside MOXIE, the Martian CO2 is compressed and filtered to remove any contaminants. It is then heated, which causes separation into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen is further isolated by a hot, charged ceramic component; the oxygen ions merge into O2. Carbon monoxide is expelled harmlessly back into the atmosphere.
The MOXIE teams will next analyze the purity of the oxygen; preliminary indications are that once the background CO2 was flushed out by the flowing oxygen, the resulting product was nearly 100% pure oxygen.
Serving as a proof of concept, MOXIE has paved the way for possible future Mars missions to produce oxygen, which will be needed for rocket propulsion on return trips for crewed missions.
“The first run of MOXIE is a step in the right direction to bring us closer to the possibility of human missions to Mars,” says Jeffrey Hoffman, a professor of the practice in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who is the deputy principal investigator the project. “The technology that evolves from what we have been able to do here will be the grandchildren descended from the success of our MOXIE instrument.”
MOXIE is sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. It is a joint venture between NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), MIT Haystack Observatory, and MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

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