NASA Rover Makes Breathable Air On Mars

Image Courtesy of JPL-CALTECH/NASA

Image Courtesy of JPL-CALTECH/NASA

Denny Mathew, Staff Writer

NASA’s Perseverance rover just created a breath of fresh air on Mars. An experimental device on the rover split carbon dioxide molecules into their component parts, creating about 10 minutes’ worth of breathable oxygen. It was also enough oxygen to make tiny amounts of rocket fuel.

The rover is called “MOXIE” (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) and is roughly the size of a toaster. It breaks off the oxygen molecules from carbon dioxide, the primary component of Mars’ atmosphere.

On April 20, the instrument warmed up to about 800° Celsius and ran for long enough to produce five grams of oxygen.

Not only is MOXIE used for breathing, but it is also used to generate enough fuel for the return journey to Earth.

Future astronauts will have to either bring oxygen with them or make it on Mars. A rocket powerful enough to lift a few astronauts off Mars’ surface would need about 25 metric tons of oxygen — too much to pack for the journey.

The success of the technology could set the stage for a permanent research station on Mars, sometime within the next decade.