A Little Bit of MOXIE
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The availability of oxygen will be one of the main challenges to colonizing Mars – but a toaster-sized device could be the solution, the Washington Post reported.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently unveiled the new gadget – the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – known as MOXIE.
MOXIE can produce oxygen from carbon dioxide, a gas that makes up nearly 96 percent of Mars’s atmosphere.
In their paper, the team explained that the small, golden box is part of NASA’s Perseverance Rover Mission that landed on the red planet in February 2021.
Since April 2021, the device has run a number of tests in which it produced oxygen during different times of day and various Martian seasonal conditions.
Researchers observed that MOXIE could produce roughly six grams of oxygen per hour, which is equivalent to the output of a simple terrestrial tree.
The experiments mark the first time that resources from another planet have been converted into something useful for human missions.
NASA and MIT researchers acknowledged some of the device’s limitations but added that it could help cut costs in maintaining future missions on Mars – instead of having to ship resources there, which is very costly.
“It’s what explorers have done since time immemorial,” said Jeffrey Hoffman, deputy principal investigator of the MOXIE mission. “Find out what resources are available where you’re going to, and find out how to use them.”