NASA’s Perseverance rover just made breathable air on Mars
The Perseverance rover converted carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars, marking the first time breathable air has been made on another planet, NASA announced Wednesday. A toaster-sized instrument called MOXIE – short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – made the feat possible. Since Mars’ atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules.
There’s another reason oxygen on another planet is vital: Rockets use oxygen to burn fuel and must have more oxygen than they weigh, according to NASA.
Every NASA Perseverance Milestone so Far As Rover Makes Oxygen on Mars
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has managed to extract oxygen from the thin atmosphere of Mars, in what the space agency said is a part of a growing list of “firsts” for the rover. The extraction was carried out using Perseverance’s Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) system—a toaster-sized box located within the rover. Michael Hecht, MOXIE’s principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has called the box “a little mechanical tree.”
First sound recorded on Mars
Shortly after touching down on the Martian surface, Perseverance captured the first sounds ever recorded on the red planet.
Dropped off Ingenuity for the first-ever powered flight on another planet
On April 4, NASA confirmed that Perseverance had dropped the Ingenuity helicopter onto the surface of Mars. Ingenuity had been stored and kept safe inside the rover’s belly.
On February 18, the same day the rover touched down on Mars, Perseverance sent back its first photo from the surface taken by an onboard Hazard Camera.
On February 24, NASA published the rover’s first 360-degree panorama of the Martian surface, taken by its Mastcam-Z instrument, which includes a zoomable pair of cameras.
On March 4, Perseverance drove on the Martian surface for the first time, covering a distance of 21.3 feet as a mobility test. Until then, the rover had remained stationary.
A day after flying a helicopter on another planet, the team behind NASA’s Perseverance rover accomplished another big first on Mars. The vagabonding science lab managed to pull oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere, which is about 96% carbon dioxide. The rolling robot carries an experimental instrument about the size of a toaster called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, known as Moxie, and on Tuesday it succeeded in peeling the oxygen atoms off molecules of carbon dioxide to create oxygen.
In its first run, Moxie extracted about five grams of oxygen, or the equivalent of around 10 minutes worth of breathable oxygen for one person. The device is designed to create up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour, so you wouldn’t want to rely on it for your survival, but NASA hopes that more powerful successors could be used to produce many tons of oxygen over their lifetimes.
Image courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS and NASA / JPL-Caltech