science

On Mars, the Moxie experiment produces as much oxygen as a small tree on Earth

Landing on the Red Planet in February 2021

Since landing on the Red Planet in February 2021, Moxie has been able to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere in all conditions, achieving the goal of producing six grams per hour, as much as a small tree can on Earth.

Results in Science Advances

The result of the experiment was published in Science Advances by a team led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Moxie is the size of a car battery and in 2021 it was run seven times for several hours each, so as not to interfere with the perseverance operations.

future projects

– However, in the future, a larger version could be sent to Mars to constantly produce oxygen, as is the case with several hundred trees. According to the researchers, such a system could generate enough oxygen to support astronauts arriving on the planet and power a rocket to return them to Earth.

“Historical result”

– “This is the first evidence of the actual use of resources on the surface of another planetary body and their chemical conversion into something that could be useful for a human mission,” says Moxie Deputy Director Jeffrey Hoffman of MIT. “In that sense – he explains – it’s a historical thing.”

How does Moxie work?

To produce breathable oxygen, Moxie sucks in Martian air and through a filter cleans it of pollutants. Once compressed, the air is sent to a Soxe instrument (solid oxide electrolyzer), which breaks down carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide ions. The oxygen ions are then isolated and recombined to form breathable molecular oxygen, which Moxie measures its quantity and purity before it is safely released into the air, along with carbon monoxide and other atmospheric gases.

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Phil Schwartz

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