MOXIE produces oxygen by dissecting carbon dioxide from the thin Martian atmosphere.
The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) isn’t just any onboard gadget—it’s the future’s oxygen supply store. As this compact marvel, roughly the size of a microwave oven accomplished its 16th and final operation, it exceeded even the expectations of its MIT designers.
MOXIE’s outstanding capability to extract oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere promises not just breathable air but also potential rocket fuel for returning astronauts. “Such advancements are crucial to establish a lasting presence on the Moon and launch our first human missions to Mars,” remarks NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.
MOXIE’s Remarkable Achievements
Since touching down on Martian soil in 2021, MOXIE has churned out 122 grams of oxygen, equivalent to what a petite canine might inhale in ten hours. Its peak performance witnessed a 12-gram oxygen production rate per hour—doubling NASA’s initial targets and achieving a staggering 98% purity.
How does MOXIE work? It produces oxygen by dissecting carbon dioxide from the thin Martian atmosphere. “This pioneering technology aligns with our vision of astronauts harnessing Martian resources,” says Trudy Kortes, STMD director at NASA Headquarters.
While Perseverance houses numerous experiments, MOXIE stands out, targeting future human voyages to Mars. It symbolizes the first-ever technology allowing humans to inhabit and eventually depart from Mars, emphasizing in-situ resource utilization—a burgeoning research domain.
Setting the Stage for Tomorrow
Although there’s talk about an enhanced MOXIE model, the prime focus is developing an extensive system that not only produces but also stores oxygen. MIT’s Michael Hecht, the principal investigator, emphasizes the need for diverse technologies to undergo Martian validation, proudly noting MOXIE’s trailblazing role.
Perseverance’s primary mission revolves around astrobiology, including hunting for traces of ancient Martian lifeforms. It’s also paving the way for Earthlings to explore Mars. This mission, in tandem with the European Space Agency, envisages subsequent journeys to retrieve Martian samples for comprehensive Earth-based analysis. All these endeavors fall under NASA’s expansive Moon to Mars exploration umbrella, linking lunar missions with the eventual human exploration of Mars.
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