NASA’s Experiment MOXIE: An gadget the size of a lunchbox (MOXIE by NASA) is demonstrating its ability to consistently carry out the work of a tiny tree on the red and dusty surface of Mars, some 100 million miles from Earth. Since April 2021, roughly two months after it landed on the Martian surface as part of NASA’s Perseverance rover and Mars 2020 mission, the MIT-led Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, has been producing oxygen from the Red Planet’s carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.
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NASA’s Experiment MOXIE: Key Points
- Researchers say that by the end of 2021, MOXIE was able to manufacture oxygen on seven experimental runs, in a variety of atmospheric circumstances, including day and night and throughout the Martian seasons, according to a paper published in the journal Science Advances.
- The instrument produced six grammes of oxygen per hour on each run, or roughly the same amount as a small tree on Earth.
- According to researchers, a scaled-up MOXIE may be transported to Mars before a human trip to create oxygen continually at the rate of several hundred trees.
- At that capacity, the system should be able to produce enough oxygen to support people once they arrive as well as power a rocket for astronauts returning to Earth.
- As of now, MOXIE’s consistent output represents a positive first step in that direction.
- This is the first instance of utilising materials from the surface of another planetary body and chemically converting them into something useful for a human mission.
NASA’s Experiment MOXIE: Authors and Co-authors
The MOXIE team members Jason SooHoo, Andrew Liu, Eric Hinterman, Maya Nasr, Shravan Hariharan, Kyle Horn, and Parker Steen are among the co-authors from MIT alongside Hoffman and Hecht. Additionally, there are contributors from various other institutions, such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversaw MOXIE’s development, flight software, packaging, and testing before launch.
NASA’s Experiment MOXIE: Current Design
The current MOXIE is built to run for brief times, starting up and shutting down with each run, depending on the rover’s exploration schedule and mission tasks. It is compact by design to fit within the Perseverance rover. A complete oxygen factory, however, would include larger units that ideally ran continually. MOXIE has demonstrated that, despite the inevitable trade-offs in its current architecture, it is capable of reliably and effectively converting Mars’ atmosphere into pure oxygen.
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