Triumph Moxy NASA

Triumph Moxy NASA

This artist’s concept depicts astronauts and human habitats on Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover carried a number of technologies that could make Mars safer and easier to explore for humans. One of them is MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a device that has successfully generated oxygen on Mars. Credit: NASA

By riding with the Perseverance rover, the instrument has proven to be a viable technology for astronauts Mars To produce oxygen for fuel and respiration.

When the first astronauts land on Mars, their descendants may have a device the size of a microwave oven, thanks to the air they breathe and the rocket fuel that brings them home.

This device, called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen Resource Utilization Experiment), generated oxygen for the 16th and final time on board. NASARover Perseverance. After the tool proved much more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Expectedly, its operations will end.

“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere — oxygen that could help provide breathable air or rocket fuel for future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy. “Developing technologies that allow us to utilize resources on the Moon and Mars is critical to building a long-term lunar presence, creating a robust lunar economy, and allowing us to support an initial human exploration campaign to Mars.”

The MOXIE chassis of NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover has been lowered

MOXIE (Mars Oxygen Resource Utilization Experiment) was lowered into the hull of NASA’s Perseverance rover in 2019. During the mission, MOXIE extracted oxygen from the Martian atmosphere 16 times, to test a method by which future astronauts could make rocket propellant that would launch them. Back to earth. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since the Perseverance rover landed on Mars in 2021, MOXIE has produced a total of 122 grams of oxygen, which is what a small dog breathes in 10 hours. MOXIE, at its highest efficiency, was able to produce 12 grams of oxygen per hour — double NASA’s original goals for the instrument — with 98% purity or better.

In the 16th round, on August 7, the device produced 9.8 grams of oxygen. MOXIE successfully completed all of its technical requirements and was operated in a variety of conditions throughout an entire Martian year, allowing the instrument’s developers to learn a lot about the technology.

Innovative technology for future explorations

“We are proud to support advanced technology like MOXIE that can turn domestic resources into useful products for future exploration missions,” said Trudy Curtis, technology demonstration manager for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Funds the MOXIE demonstration. “By proving this technology in real-world conditions, we are one step closer to a future in which astronauts live beyond Earth on the Red Planet.”

MOXIE produces molecular oxygen through an electrochemical process that separates single oxygen corn of every molecule of carbon dioxide pumped out of Mars’ thin atmosphere. As these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to check the purity and quantity of oxygen produced.

Pioneering the use of Mars resources

While many of Perseverance’s experiments address the basic science goals of the mission, MOXIE has focused on future human exploration. MOXIE served as the first-ever demonstration of technology that humans could use to stay on and leave the Red Planet. The oxygen production system could help future missions in various ways, but the most important one will serve as a source of rocket fuel, which will be needed in industrial quantities to launch rockets with the astronauts on their return trip home.

Instead of bringing large amounts of oxygen with them to Mars, future astronauts could live off Earth, using materials they find on the planet’s surface to survive. This concept — called in situ resource utilization, or ISRU — has developed into a growing field of research.

“MOXIE has clearly served as an inspiration to the ISRU community,” said the instrument’s principal investigator, Michael Hecht of MIT. “It showed that NASA was willing to invest in this type of future technology. It was a pioneer that impacted the exciting space resources industry.”

NASA Perseverance Rover technical rendering

NASA’s Perseverance rover, shown in this rendering, contains a device called MOXIE. It effectively produced oxygen on Mars, paving the way for future astronauts to take advantage of the planet’s resources for survival and travel. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Future focus

The next step won’t be building MOXIE 2.0, although Hecht and his team have learned a lot about how to design a more efficient version of the tool. Rather, it would be creating a large-scale system that would include an oxygen generator like MOXIE and a way to liquefy and store that oxygen.

But more than anything, Hecht would like to see other technologies take on Mars. “We have to make decisions about what things to validate on Mars,” Hecht said. “I think there are many technologies on that list; I’m so glad MOXIE was the first.

MOXIE Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment Instrument for the Mars 2020 Rover

The ISRU Mars Oxygen Experiment (MOXIE) is an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Credit: NASA

More about the mission

The main goal of the Perseverance Mars mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will describe the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regolith (crushed rocks and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA)European Space Agency), a spacecraft will be sent to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory Manages the MOXIE project for the Technology Demonstration Task Program within STMD. MOXIE was also supported by NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate and Science Mission Directorate.

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