The Moxie device of the Mars rover Perseverance extracted oxygen from the atmosphere for the first time on an alien planet.
Washington, DC (USA). The colonization of Mars requires not only water, which, according to a study by the Planetary Science Institute (PSI), could be located just a few meters below the surface of the Red Planet, but also oxygen . According to a NASA press release, the Mars rover Perseverance, which landed on February 18, 2021, has now extracted oxygen on Mars. This is the first time humanity has produced oxygen on another planet.
The scientific device “ Moxie ” (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) was used for this purpose, which extracted oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars, which was mainly composed of carbon dioxide. NASA Manager Jim Reuter describes the performance of the toaster-sized device as a “crucial first step” in colonizing the planet.
6 grams of oxygen per hour
After the warm-up period, Moxie was able to extract about 6 grams of oxygen per hour. This shows that the principle basically works. An astronaut could work with this amount of oxygen for about ten minutes.
In the future, the output should be increased to around ten grams of oxygen per hour. A number of the compact devices could therefore be sufficient to supply a small colony on Mars with oxygen. In addition, rockets should also be operated with the oxygen extracted from the atmosphere.
Inverted fuel cell
The operating principle of Moxie can be understood as a fuel cell that runs backwards. In the first step, the instrument collects CO2 from the atmosphere . Although this is available in sufficient quantities on Mars, it occurs only in low density in the atmosphere. Moxie therefore has a pump and a compressor that suck in and compress the atmosphere. Moxie then separates the CO2 into carbon monoxide, CO, and oxygen. To do this, the raw material is heated to 800 degrees Celsius.