NASA / JPL-Caltech
After conducting the first propulsion flight on another world, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission has tackled another key first that could pave the way for future astronauts by getting oxygen to air from Mars.
NASA announced that the instrument on the rover was able to successfully extract carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere and separate it electrically. Oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules
Mars’ atmosphere contains about 95% carbon dioxide, with the rest being mostly nitrogen and argon.
The achievements announced on Wednesday are considered essential for human long-term habitation on Mars, as adequate oxygen deployments from Earth may prove impractical. It comes ahead of NASA’s second successful Ingenuity helicopter test following the first historic flight on Monday.
Second flight “Coming to a new milestone of high altitude, fly further and sideways,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a tweet.
Go big or go home! #MarsHelicopter Successfully accomplished flight 2 by taking this picture with a monochrome guide camera It also reached new milestones of higher altitude, longer hovering, and lateral flight. pic.twitter.com/F3lwcV9kH2
– NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 22, 2021
“Moxy is not the first device to produce oxygen on another planet,” Trudy Cortes, technology demonstration director at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Committee, said in a statement. She calls it the first technology to enable future missions. “Out of the land” of other planets.
The Perseverance rover uses a tool called the MOXIE or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, which heats extra carbon dioxide to chemically separate, producing about 5 grams of pure O2, enough for astronauts to breathe. 10 minutes according to NASA
“This is an important first step in converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, STMD Assistant Administrator.
Engineers hope to scale the MOXIE to produce enough oxygen for future human flights to Mars. A group of four astronauts on the red planet will require about a metric ton of oxygen between them throughout the year, MOXIE principal investigator Michael Hecht, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a NASA press release.
Oxygen produced on Mars can be used in conjunction with rocket fuel to propel rockets back to Earth.NASA predicts 25 metric tons of oxygen will be required for such a rocket carrying four astronauts, Hecht said last year, an industrial-sized MOXIE-style tool. For use on Mars, it may weigh about a metric ton.
On Monday, Ingenuity’s two-rotor helicopters, part of the Mars 2020 mission that included a rover and MOXIE engine, became the first propulsion plane to fly on another planet.
The clever 4 pounds flew 10 feet into the air for a moment, then glided back to the surface of Mars with nothing to happen. The helicopter with the camera on the plane is still being tested. But there will be more ambitious flights as the mission progresses.