Success of NASA’s MOXIE

This artist’s concept depicts astronauts and human habitation on Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover brought many technologies to Mars to make it safer and easier for humans to explore. One of these is MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a device that successfully produces oxygen on Mars. Credit: NASA

Riding with the Persistence rover, the instrument has proven to be a viable technology for astronauts. tuesday To produce fuel and oxygen for respiration.

When the first astronauts land on Mars, they may have descendants of the microwave-oven-sized device to thank for the air they breathe and the rocket propellant that comes home.

The device, called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), is the 16th and final time the spacecraft has produced oxygen. NASAs persistence rover. After the device proved more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with) is expected, its functions are terminated.

“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it’s possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere — oxygen that could help provide breathable air or rocket propellant for future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Developing technologies that allow us to harness resources on the Moon and Mars allows us to create a long-term lunar presence and build a robust lunar economy to support an initial human exploration campaign to Mars.”

MOXIE is the shortening chassis of the NASA Mars Perseverance rover

MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment) was lowered into the chassis of NASA’s Perseverance in 2019. During the mission, MOXIE extracted oxygen from the Martian atmosphere 16 times, testing a way for future astronauts to create the propellant that would propel them into rockets. Back to Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since Perseverance landed on Mars in 2021, MOXIE has produced a total of 122 grams of oxygen — about as much as a small dog breathes in 10 hours. MOXIE was able to produce 12 grams of oxygen per hour — twice NASA’s original goals for the instrument — at 98% purity or better.

On its 16th run, on August 7, the instrument produced 9.8 grams of oxygen. MOXIE successfully completed all of its technical requirements and operated for a full Martian year in various stages, allowing the tool’s developers to learn more about the technology.

Innovative technology for future studies

“We are proud to support breakthrough technology like MOXIE that can transform local resources into useful products for future exploration missions,” said Trudy Cortes, director of technical specifications for the Space Technology Operations Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. MOXIE is sponsoring the demonstration. “By demonstrating this technology in real-world conditions, we are one step closer to a future where astronauts ‘inhabit the ground’ on the Red Planet.”

MOXIE produces molecular oxygen through an electrochemical process that splits oxygen Atomic From every molecule of carbon dioxide pumped out of Mars’ thin atmosphere. As these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to verify the purity and amount of oxygen produced.

Pioneer Mars resource utilization

While many of Persistence’s experiments address the primary scientific goals of the mission, MOXIE is focused on future human studies. MOXIE served as the first demonstration of technology that humans could use to survive and evacuate the Red Planet. An oxygen-producing system could help future missions in a number of ways, but the most important of them would be as a source of rocket propellant, which would be needed to launch rockets with astronauts on industrial scales.

Instead of bringing large amounts of oxygen to Mars, future astronauts could live on Earth, using materials they find on the planet’s surface to survive. This concept – in-situ resource utilization or ISRU – has evolved into a growing area of ​​research.

“MOXIE has clearly inspired the ISRU community,” said Michael Hecht of MIT, the instrument’s principal investigator. “This shows that NASA is willing to invest in such future technologies, and it is a first that has an impact on the exciting industry of space resources.

Artistic rendering of the NASA Perseverance rover

NASA’s Perseverance rover, shown in this artwork, carried a device called MOXIE. It has effectively produced oxygen on Mars, paving the way for future astronauts to use the planet’s resources for survival and travel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Future focus

The next step isn’t to build MOXIE 2.0 — Hecht and his team learned a lot about how to design a more efficient version of the tool. Instead, building a full-scale system like the MOXIE includes an oxygen generator and a way to liquefy and store that oxygen.

But most of all, Hecht wants to see other technologies return to Mars. “We have to make decisions about what things to check on Mars,” Hecht said. “I think there are many technologies on that list; I’m so glad MOXIE came first.

MOXIE Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment Instrument for the Mars 2020 Rover

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) is a research technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA

More about the mission

A major objective of Perseverance’s work on Mars is astronomy, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will be the first mission to characterize the planet’s geography and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and collect and store Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), will send the spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes the Artemis missions to the Moon, to help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California, develops and manages operations for the Perseverance rover.

JPL Manages the MOXIE project for the Technical Description Works program within STMD. MOXIE was supported by NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate and Science Mission Directorate.

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