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NASA stops oxygen production on Mars

NASA stops oxygen production on Mars

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Moxie is about the size of a toaster and is housed inside NASA’s Perseverance rover. On Mars, oxygen is extracted from the air. (File photo) © NASA/JPL Caltech

Oxygen production on Mars aims to simplify human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA shows that this can actually work.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft has been rolling over Mars for two and a half years and appears far from giving up. Its little companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, also continues to fly over the Red Planet. But now the research community has to say goodbye to a very important instrument aboard Perseverance: Moxie (the Mars Oxygen Resource In-Situ Experiment). This is a toaster-sized device that was intended to produce oxygen on Mars as a technology demonstration.

The experiment was a success — and how: “Moxie” activated on Mars 16 times and extracted a total of 122 grams of oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere. According to the US space agency NASA, this is the amount of oxygen that a small dog consumes in ten hours. But now oxygen production on Mars has ended.

NASA: Oxygen production on Mars was a success

“Moxie’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, oxygen that could help provide future astronauts with breathable air or rocket fuel,” NASA Vice Administrator Pam Milroy said in a statement. notice At the end of the technology demonstration. “Developing technologies that allow us to exploit resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to establishing a long-term presence on the Moon, creating a robust lunar economy, and supporting the first human exploration campaign to Mars.”

According to NASA, the Mars instrument met all technical requirements and worked under the most diverse conditions during the Martian year. The developers of the tool have learned a lot about the technology. But the raw numbers are impressive, too: according to this, Moxy produced 12 grams of oxygen per hour at one point – twice what was actually expected. The device’s last firing on August 7 produced 9.8 grams of oxygen.

Mars crews can produce oxygen themselves

“By testing this technology under real conditions, we are one step closer to a future in which astronauts live on the Red Planet outside Earth,” says NASA employee Trudy Curtis. Because that’s the background to the technology pitch: If people one day travel to Mars, they’d better bring as little oxygen with them as possible. After all, each kilogram of freight costs a lot of money and requires space, which is expensive. Everything that can be produced locally must be produced there.

Producing oxygen on site would be practical for space travel for two reasons: After all, a future Martian crew not only needs oxygen to breathe, but also as rocket fuel. The amounts of oxygen produced by Moxie are far from sufficient for a human crew on Mars. According to NASA, 25 to 30 tons of oxygen are needed for liftoff from Mars alone. In addition, there is oxygen needed for breathing.

NASA is happy to experiment with oxygen on Mars

No matter how happy you are at NASA, it is clear that the next step will not be to build a larger “Moxie 2.0” – it will be a system that contains an oxygen generator like the “Moxie” and also makes it possible to supply oxygen to it. It is said to liquefy and store.

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The scientist responsible for the instrument, Michael Hecht (MIT), now wants to see that other technologies also get their chance on Mars. “We have to make decisions about what things to validate on Mars,” he explains in a NASA statement. “I think there are a lot of techniques on this list; I’m so glad ‘Moxie’ was first.” (Tab)

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