MOXIE: Generating Oxygen on Mars with Perseverance Rover
With its rusty-red surface and potential for supporting life, Mars has long been an intriguing topic for space enthusiasts. The unbreathable environment of Mars, however, has made the concept of residing there little more than a pipe dream. But what if we told you that an innovative modern technology has been created that has the potential to revolutionize everything? Enter MOXIE, an abbreviation for the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment with a futuristic-sounding name. It may be possible for humans to live on Mars thanks to MOXIE’s ability to produce breathable oxygen. We will examine the inner workings of MOXIE in this article and discuss how it could alter the way we approach space exploration and colonization.
Generating Oxygen on Mars: Why is it Important?
Oxygen is essential for human survival. It is required to breathe, and without it, humans cannot live. The current method of transporting oxygen from Earth to Mars is not sustainable. It is expensive, difficult, and risky. Therefore, generating oxygen on Mars is an essential step towards human habitation on the planet. In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is a process that involves utilizing resources available on a planet or moon to sustain human life. Generating oxygen on Mars is a crucial part of ISRU. By generating oxygen on Mars, humans can reduce the amount of oxygen they need to transport from Earth, making it more feasible to establish a permanent human presence on the planet.
How it Works:
MOXIE is a small, lightweight device that is currently aboard the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February 2021. MOXIE’s primary purpose is to demonstrate the technology required to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. It works by using electrolysis, a process that splits molecules into their constituent parts, to extract oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. MOXIE’s design is based on the solid oxide electrolysis technology used in power plants on Earth.
MOXIE is powered by the rover’s battery and uses the Martian atmosphere as its source of carbon dioxide. The device heats up the carbon dioxide to a high temperature, separating it into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen is then released into the Martian atmosphere, while the carbon monoxide is released back into the atmosphere.
MOXIE’s Development and Objectives:
The development of MOXIE began in 2014, with the objective of demonstrating the ability to generate oxygen on Mars using solid oxide electrolysis technology. The device was designed and built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was delivered to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 2019. MOXIE was then integrated into the Perseverance rover and launched in July 2020.
MOXIE’s experiments during the Perseverance mission have several objectives. The first objective is to demonstrate that the technology works. MOXIE is expected to produce up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour during its experiments, which is enough to sustain a small dog for ten hours. The second objective is to test MOXIE’s durability in the Martian environment, which includes the low atmospheric pressure, extreme temperatures, and the presence of dust. The third objective is to provide valuable data for future missions to Mars, including human missions.
MOXIE’s Results and Significance
The initial results of MOXIE’s experiments have been promising. The device successfully produced oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, demonstrating that the solid oxide electrolysis technology works on Mars. The oxygen production rate was lower than expected, with MOXIE producing only 5.4 grams of oxygen in an hour, but the team at JPL considers this a success.
Significance of the results in terms of future missions and habitation on Mars:
The significance of MOXIE’s success cannot be overstated. It is a significant step towards future human habitation on Mars. If MOXIE and similar technologies can be scaled up, it could potentially generate enough oxygen to sustain a human settlement on Mars. It also has implications for future missions to other planets and moons in the solar system, where ISRU can be used to generate resources necessary for human survival.
MOXIE’s success also has implications for the exploration of Mars. Oxygen generated by MOXIE can be used as rocket fuel, which can significantly reduce the amount of fuel that needs to be transported from Earth. This, in turn, can enable more ambitious missions to Mars, such as crewed missions and the establishment of a permanent base on the planet.
Future Plans for MOXIE
The ability of MOXIE to produce oxygen on Mars is really revolutionary. This accomplishment changes how we think about space exploration and colonization and creates new opportunities for a long-term human presence on the red planet. The success of MOXIE goes beyond only producing oxygen; it also marks an important advancement in in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), which enables us to harness the resources found on other planets and moons to support human existence. By allowing us to harvest and utilize resources locally rather than having to ship everything from Earth, it has the potential to lower the expense and danger of space travel.
MOXIE and other such technologies will be at the vanguard of these efforts as we continue to push the limits of space exploration, bringing us one step closer to fulfilling our dream of human settlement outside of Earth. Space exploration has a promising future, and one of the many brilliant lights paving the way is MOXIE.