The growing list of “firsts” for Perseverance, NASA’s newest six-wheeled robot on the sea surface, includes converting some of the Red Planet’s thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into oxygen. Toaster, an experimental instrument on Perseverance called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) performed the task. The test took place on April 20, the 60th day of March, or sol, as the mission landed on February 18.
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While the ie demonstration technology demonstration is just beginning, it could pave the way for science fiction to become a science fact – isolating and storing oxygen on Mars to help launch rockets that could lift astronauts from the planet’s surface. Such devices could also someday provide breathable air for astronauts themselves. MOXIE is a research technology survey – as is the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) – and is sponsored by the NASA Space Mission Mission Directorate (STMD) and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
“This is a critical first step in converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of STMD. “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results of this technology demonstration are full of promise as we aim for our goal to one day see humans on Mars. Oxygen is not just the things we breathe. A rocket fuse depends on oxygen, and future researchers will depend on the production of fuselage on Mars to return home. ” NASA’s Inventory Helicopter Makes History With Female Flight On Mars Surface.
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For rockets or astronauts, oxygen is key, said MOXIE chief investigator Michael Hecht of the Haystack Observatory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
To burn its fuel, a rocket must have more oxygen by weight. Getting four astronauts from the Martian surface on a future mission would require about 15,000 pounds (7 tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 tons) of oxygen. In contrast, astronauts living and working on Mars would require much less oxygen to breathe. “The astronauts who spend a year on the surface may use one metric between them,” Hecht said.
Transporting 25 tons of oxygen from Earth to Mars would be a daunting task. Transporting a one-ton oxygen transformer – a larger, more powerful successor to MOXIE that could produce those 25 tons – would be much more economical and practical.
Mars’ atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules, which consist of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. Waste product, carbon monoxide, is emitted into the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Marine Helicopter “Wit” Flies, Makes First Flight on Another Planet.
The conversion process requires high levels of heat to reach a temperature of about 1,470 degrees Celsius. To accommodate this, the MOXIE unit is made of heat-resistant materials. These include 3D-printed nickel parts that heat and cool the gases flowing through it, and a light air gel that helps keep heat warm. A thin gold coating on the outside of MOXIE reflects infrared heat, preventing it from radiating out and possibly damaging other parts of Persistence.
In this first operation, MOXIE’s oxygen production was quite modest – about 5 grams, equivalent to about 10 minutes of breathable oxygen for an astronaut. MOXIE is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.
This technological demonstration was designed to ensure that the instrument survived the launch of Earth, a nearly seven-month journey through deep space, and a landing with Perseverance on February 18th. MOXIE will draw oxygen at least nine more times over the course of a Mars year (almost two years on Earth).
These oxygen production will take place in three phases. The first phase will control and characterize the function of the instrument, while the second phase will operate the instrument in various atmospheric conditions, such as different day times and seasons. In the third phase, Hecht said, “we’ll push the envelope” – testing new operating modes, or introducing “new wrinkles, such as running, where we compare operations at three or more different temperatures.”
“MOXIE is not just the first instrument to produce oxygen in another world,” said Trudy Kortes, director of i.e. demonstration demonstrations at STMD. It is the first technology of its kind to help future missions “live on earth”, using elements from another world environment, also known as on-site resource use.
“It takes regolith, the substance you find on earth, and puts it through a processing plant, transforms it into a large structure, or takes carbon dioxide – most of the atmosphere – and transforms it into oxygen,” she said. “This process allows us to convert these abundant materials into usable things: fuse, breathable air or, combined with hydrogen, water.”
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A key goal of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The research vehicle will characterize the geology and past climate of the planet, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and hide sea rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. SpaceX Earns $ 2.9 Billion NASA Contract to Build Moon Lander.
The March 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration, which includes Artemis to the Moon missions that will help prepare human exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, managed by Caltech’s NASA in Pasadena, California, has built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.