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Perseverance Successfully Extracts Oxygen From the Martian Atmosphere. About 10 Minutes of Breathing Time for an Astronaut

23 Apr 2021, 18:36 UTC
Perseverance Successfully Extracts Oxygen From the Martian Atmosphere. About 10 Minutes of Breathing Time for an Astronaut
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Humanity achieved an incredible series of new milestones on Mars this week. It began on Monday April 19th, when the Ingenuity helicopter demonstrated the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another world. And now, for the first time, the Perseverance rover has used ingredients from the Martian atmosphere to create breathable oxygen, in a test that might pave the way for future astronauts to ‘live off the land’ on the Red Planet.

The feat was achieved by the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), a gold-colored cube bolted to the rover’s belly. Over the course of an hour on April 20th, MOXIE produced 5.4 grams of oxygen, enough to keep an astronaut breathing for about ten minutes.

Data from MOXIE’s first oxygen production test. The two minor reductions in oxygen production, labelled ‘Current sweeps’, were carried out purposefully to assess the instrument’s status. Credit: MIT Haystack Observatory

MOXIE works by sucking in carbon dioxide (which makes up about 96% of Mars’ thin atmosphere) while filtering out unwanted particles. The compressed carbon dioxide is then heated, breaking the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide. Further heating is required to separate the two new gasses, releasing the unwanted carbon monoxide back into ...

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