Adding to its list of historic achievements, NASA’s Perseverance rover creates breathable oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide rich atmosphere. This is the first time a natural resource has been extracted on another planet!
This is what NASA’s perseverance twitter handle said about the feat.
This extraction was achieved by an experimental device called “MOXIE” , which is short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. It produced 5 grams of oxygen, an amount that is enough for 10 minutes of breathing time. The instrument uses heat and electricity to separate the two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom from carbon dioxide.
MOXIE, which has also been dubbed the “mechanical tree” is designed to produce 10 grams of oxygen every hour. There are 9 more tests planned for the device over the next two years.
But, why was this experiment necessary? The ability to produce oxygen on Mars will be crucial for the long term survival of human settlements on the planet. Michael Hecht, an MIT engineer said that a 1 ton version of MOXIE can create the 25 tons of oxygen needed to lift a rocket from Mars. This will also make travelling to Mars cheaper as the payload weight will be reduced significantly.